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Intel Tests Fiber-Optic-Based Processor Technology.

2/12/2004 12:48:00 PM Eastern

Santa Clara, Calif. — Intel researchers announced today that they have developed a method of using fiber-optic technology, instead of silicon, to potentially deliver data streams at tremendously fast speeds for little additional cost.

The photonic technology could be used to replace the conventional connections between PCs, servers and peripherals and eventually, inside the computer’s processor, resulting in data being moved around at 50 times its current silicon-based speed. The process takes a standard data stream of ones and zeroes and converts it to light, enabling the information to travel at the speed of light. Once the trip is completed the data is converted back.

Intel hopes the photonic modulator, which would handle the conversion to light process, can be made out of silicon, a company spokesman said. This would allow the company to manufacture these devices using its current fabrication system, thus greatly reducing production costs.

The model now being tested by Intel shoots data along at 1GHz, but Intel believes this can be quickly scaled up to 10GHz. The real increase in speed will come from ganging several of these data streams together. In addition, fiber -optic cable does not suffer from electromagnetic interference, which slows transmission rates in traditional copper connections, the company said.

No time frame was announced for when photonic technology might be used in commercially available computers.