Optic Processing

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Most research projects focus on replacing current computer components with optical equivalents, resulting in an optical digital computer system processing binary data. This approach appears to offer best short-term prospects for commercial optical computing, since optical components could be integrated into traditional computers to produce an optical(or)electronic hybrid. However, optoelectronic devices lose 30% of their energy converting electrons into photons and back. This also slows down transmission of messages. All-optical computers eliminate the need for optical-electrical-optical (OEO) conversions.

IBM researchers have built a prototype optical chip that can transfer a terabit of data per second, using an innovative design requiring 48 tiny holes drilled into a standard CMOS chip, facilitating the movement of light. Much faster and more power-efficient than today's optics, the so-called "Holey Optochip" technology could enhance the power of supercomputers. Optical chips, which move data with light instead of electrons, are commonly used for interconnects in today's supercomputers and can be found in IBM systems such as Power 775 and Blue Gene. Optical technology is favored over electrical for transmitting high-bandwidth data over longer distances, which is why it's used for telecommunications networks As speed and efficiency improve, optical technology has become more viable in smaller settings. "I think the number one supercomputer ten years ago had no optics in it whatsoever, and now you're seeing large scale deployments, mostly for rack-to-rack interconnects within supercomputers," Schow said. "It's making its way deeper into the system and getting closer and closer to the actual processor." With the Holey Optochip, Schow said "our target is the bandwidth that interconnects different processors in the system—not the processor talking to its memory, but a processor talking to another processor in a large parallel system." The Holey Optochip uses 4.7...
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