For IBM the next great advance in computing will be optical circuits: they manage to efficiently guide light through a silicon
In recent years and as we have been approaching the limits of Moore’s Law different companies have sought alternatives to improve the performance of computers. Every time we try to put more transistors and it is becoming more complex, so from IBM other alternatives have been proposed that have not so much to do with the number of transistors but with what is used in them. In this case, light.
According to IBM, the speed of processors has stagnated for the last decade and a half to a few gigahertz. That is, as much as we want to get more performance out of the chips, they do not give for more with current technology. Your idea to fix this bottleneck has to do with change the complete operation of the circuits.
From electronic circuit to optical circuit
Optical circuits they are the next big thing in computing for IBM. The company claims to have for the first time managed to efficiently guide visible light through silicon. This is undoubtedly an important step forward to achieve faster and more efficient chips. Why? Because visible light travels faster than electricity between transistors.
Optical circuits encode information using light instead of electronics. They are not entirely new but yes, the important advances are just taking place due to the difficulties that technology presents. IBM built the first optical transistor that operated at room temperature in 2019. Now they claim to have molded silicon to guide light between these transistors.
The use of silicon for this it has its advantages and disadvantages. The good part is that it is relatively cheap and common, since it is the element currently used for chips, after all. The bad part is that it is quite a challenge to prevent it from absorbing visible light. IBM says that to avoid this they built a kind of nanometer-thick grid around the silicon “tube”. This reflective grating prevented the light from escaping and the photons were thus able to reach their destination.
Despite the progress, there is still a long way to go until we see an optical chip in good condition, cheap and easy to manufacture. They say the next step for now is to design the efficient coupling of light from silicon to other components. Ultimately everything consists of creating “paths” to carry light from one place to another, “paths” like the cables we use to transmit electricity. Meanwhile, other companies such as Intel propose other alternatives such as neuromorphic processors, what win by a landslide to traditional CPUs in some respects.
Via | IBM