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High speed bidirectional optical interconnect for board to board communications

The Electron Science Research Institute focuses on the integration of the frontier technologies of nano-photonics and nano-electronics to realise higher performance low-power hybrid nano-devices for future ICT systems and other applications, such as medicine, biotech, sensing, solar cells and displays.

An example of the hybrid integration of microelectronics and micro-/nano-photonics is the Optical Interconnect Technology (OIT)that is being jointly developed by ECU and Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST).

This unique optical interconnect technology is producing highly integrated and relatively low cost optical interconnects. The technology is compatible with high volume silicon semiconductor manufacturing processes, creating a chip level silicon photonic interconnect solution.

Many short reach communications links have aggregate speeds of 10 Gbps and higher, and conventional electrical interconnects are not capable of supporting future increasing communication rates. As a result, the international computing, communications and semiconductor industries are actively looking for alternative solutions for board-to-board, chip-to-chip, and intra-chip interconnects.

Fibre optic technology now dominates medium to long distance data communications links due to its greater overall bandwidth, immunity to electro-magnetic interference, and lower losses. Whereas, the use of optical interconnects over very short distances has been limited by the available optical technology and the prohibitive cost in comparison to electrical technology.

At aggregate data speeds of 100 Gigabits per second (Gbps) optical interconnects can demonstrate clear advantages over the electrical alternatives and optical interconnects will form the basis of the next generation of communications standards currently under development.

The technology is in the development stage, with the first products expected to be available in 2011. By that time the addressable market for board-to-board and chip-to-chip optical interconnects is estimated to reach USD $1 billion, with the use of high speed interconnects within and between high end computing and networking equipment.

The optical interconnect technology is highly scalable and also lends itself to widespread use within personal computers, cars, and a range of consumer devices, each representing multi-billion dollar interconnect market segments. In addition, intra-chip optical interconnects have the potential to become an essential technology for the USD $255 billion semiconductor industry over the coming five to ten years.


Professor Kamal Alameh

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