Sun Banks on Lasers to Make Next Speed Leap
Using light, not wires, to connect chips could make computers 1,000 times faster
By Laila Weir,  Newser User
Posted Mar 24, 2008 1:49 PM CDT
The Pentagon is seen in this Sept. 11, 2002 photo. Sun won a $44 million Pentagon contract to explore connecting computer chips with lasers.   (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Angela Stafford)
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(Newser) – Sun Microsystems is moving toward connecting computer chips using lasers instead of wires, a move that could make computers 1,000 times faster. The company snagged a $44 million Pentagon contract to continue work that could also mean smaller, more energy-efficient machines. It won’t be easy, though: A Sun researcher told the New York Times the chance of success is 50%.

The capacity of the wires connecting chips currently limits the speed of data transmission; replacing wires with lasers would eliminate that bottleneck. Others are also looking to speed up the connections between chips. Last week, Japan’s NEC Corporation said it will use optical connections to make a supercomputer 20 times faster than current models.