The article, “HP’s Laser-powered Chip of the Future,” by Eric Smalley includes a section “Fight the Power” that looks at the “two roadblocks preventing us from continuing to scale up the performance of today’s chips at the current rate. The more processor cores we cram on each chip, the more challenging it is to coordinate them. And as computer systems get bigger, moving data in and out of memory becomes a huge energy drain. Integrated photonics can help with both problems by providing high speed, low-power communications.
Energy efficiency is a major issue for today’s servers, especially in large data centers that deploy thousands at a time. Right now, the major obsolescence factor for servers is power usage. The money saved on energy justifies buying a new server about every three years, says Lionel Kimerling, a materials science and engineering professor at MIT. But integrated photonics, he says, could change that.
Integrated photonics is also likely to play a central role in boosting the bandwidth and lowering the power consumption of the internet, particularly for supporting video services. Mobile devices are also power constrained. And electromagnetic interference – something you don’t get with photonics – is a growing concern for mobile devices and automobile electronics. All of these technologies are eventually going to require integrated photonics, says Daniel Blumenthal, an electrical and computer engineering professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. ‘Business just can’t be done the same old way.’”