IBM unveils 160Gbps microchip

27 Mar 2007

IBM scientists today unveiled in California a super-speed prototype optical transceiver chipset capable of downloading a full-length high-definition (HD) feature film in just a single second.

In comparison to the five to 10 hours that it takes to download a HD movie today over a typical home broadband connection, this chipset has the ability to move information at speeds of 160GB per second.

Optical networking has the potential to vastly improve data transfer rates by using light pulses in place of sending electrons over wires.

“The explosion in the amount of data being transferred, when downloading movies, TV shows, music or photos, is creating demand for greater bandwidth and higher speeds in connectivity,” said Dr Chen, vice-president of science and technology at IBM Research.

“Greater use of optical communications is needed to address this issue. We believe our optical transceiver technology may provide the answer,” he said.

The optical chipset measures only one fifteenth the area of a US dime but is capable of transmitting the equivalent of four million concurrent telephone conversations.

The compact design means that the chipset has other applications aside from the internet. It could be integrated onto printed circuit boards to allow the components within a device like a PC to communicate much faster, speeding up the performance of a computer itself.

The technology used in producing this chipset is designed to be low-cost by attaching it to an optically printed circuit board and using mass assembly techniques.

IBM Research employs roughly 3,000 scientists and engineers in six different countries, making it the world’s largest information technology research organisation.

By Marie Boran