2009 R&D 100 Winner
The current highest-performing supercomputers have just reached one petaflop (1015 floating point operations/second). These machines require approximately 5 mW of power between direct power and cooling with approximately 20% of the power going to network communications. Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, N.M., developed the Ultralow-Power Silicon Microphotonic Communications platform to address the bandwidth and power consumption limitations of future microelectronic inter-chip networks. The silicon microphotonic modulators demonstrate a hundred-fold reduction in communications power consumption, comparable to traditional electrical inter-chip networks in a platform capable of achieving up to seven terabits-per-second of communications bandwidth per communications line. The high-speed silicon bandpass switches demonstrate that the optical data can be routed on a silicon chip at nano-second switching speeds with less than 1 mW of power consumption. This communications platform can be applied to high-performance computer, high-speed digital imagers, and other high-bandwidth applications.
Silicon microphotonic modulators
Sandia National Laboratories