IBM scientists have reached a “significant milestone” in chip technology, using optical signals to speed up and shrink the largest multicore processors. The breakthrough controls light pulses with a device called a wave-guide, a wire-like structure on the chip that communicates among processors; hybrid electronic-optic chips could reduce refrigerator-sized supercomputers to the size of laptops within five years, the Journal reports.
As more cores are placed on single chips, communication means increased energy expenditure, a formula that increases the risk of overheating. The new optical technology will cut the amount of energy needed to carry information. "You can put hundreds of times more data on an optical wire than on a copper wire," said the research leader.