Intel Opens Integrated Photonics Research Center for Data Center Interconnects

Intel Labs - photonics

The Intel Research Center for Integrated Photonics for Data Center Interconnects has opened at Intel Labs. The objective of the new center is to accelerate optical input/output (I/O) technological innovation in performance scaling and integration, with an emphasis on photonics technology and devices, CMOS circuits and link design, package integration, and fiber coupling.

The increased mobility of data from server to server is putting today’s network architecture to the test, according to Intel. Electrical I/O performance is rapidly reaching its practical limits in the industry. Electrical I/O power-performance scaling is not keeping up with demand, and available power for compute processes may soon be limited. The integration of computing silicon and optical I/O, which is a core research center emphasis, can overcome this performance barrier, stated Intel.

Intel has lately exhibited advancements in essential photonics technology building blocks. To attain the requisite performance to replace electrical as the principal high-bandwidth off-package interface, light production, amplification, detection, modulation, CMOS interface circuits, and package integration are required. Optical I/O would also has the potential to significantly surpass electrical I/O in terms of reach, bandwidth density, power consumption, and latency.

However, to improve optical performance while decreasing power and cost, more innovation would be required on numerous fronts.

Advancing Optical I/O Technology Innovation

The Intel Research Center for Integrated Photonics for Data Center Interconnects brings together universities and internationally recognized academics to advance optical I/O technology innovation in performance scaling and integration. The goal of the study is to find a technological scaling route that meets energy efficiency and bandwidth performance needs in the coming decade and beyond.

Intel recognizes that academia is at the core of technology innovation, and it works to promote research innovation at the world’s top universities. Intel’s announcement would demonstrate the vendor’s continuous commitment to working with academic institutions to create new and advanced technologies that will improve and progress computing as we know it.

The researchers participating in the Intel Research Center include:

John Bowers, University of California, Santa Barbara
Project: Heterogeneously Integrated Quantum Dot Lasers on Silicon.
Description: The UCSB team will investigate issues with integrating indium arsenide (InAs) quantum dot lasers with conventional silicon photonics. The goal of this project is to characterize expected performance and design parameters of single frequency and multiwavelength sources.

Pavan Kumar Hanumolu, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Project: Low-power optical transceivers enabled by duo-binary signaling and baud-rate clock recovery.
Description: Using unique trans-impedance amplifiers and baud-rate clock and data recovery designs, this research will produce ultra-low-power, high-sensitivity optical receivers. To exhibit very high jitter tolerance and good energy efficiency, the prototype optical transceivers will be constructed in a 22 nm CMOS technology.

Arka Majumdar, University of Washington
Project: Nonvolatile reconfigurable optical switching network for high-bandwidth data communication.
Description: Using developing chalcogenide phase transition materials, the UW team will work on low-loss, nonvolatile electrically reconfigurable silicon photonic switches. The new switch, unlike previous adjustable methods, will maintain its state, resulting in zero static power usage.

Samuel Palermo, Texas A&M University
Project: Sub-150fJ/b optical transceivers for data center interconnects.
Description: For a massively parallel, high-density, high-capacity photonic connection system, this project will design energy-efficient optical transceiver circuits. Using dynamic voltage frequency scaling in transceivers, low-swing voltage-mode drivers, ultra-sensitive optical receivers with tight photodetector integration, and low-power optical device tuning loops, the objective is to enhance energy efficiency.

Alan Wang, Oregon State University
Project: 0.5V silicon microring modulators driven by high-mobility transparent conductive oxide.
Description: This research aims to create a silicon microring resonator modulator (MRM) with a low driving voltage and high bandwidth by combining a silicon MOS capacitor with a high-mobility Ti:In2O3 layer. The device has the potential to overcome the optical transmitter’s energy efficiency constraint and can be co-packaged in future optical I/O systems.

Ming Wu, University of California, Berkeley
Project: Wafer-scale optical packaging of silicon photonics.
Description: The UC Berkeley team will create integrated waveguide lenses that have the potential to enable low-loss, high-tolerance non-contact optical packaging of fiber arrays.

S.J. Ben Yoo, University of California, Davis
Project: Athermal and power-efficient scalable high-capacity silicon-photonic transceivers.
Description: Athermal silicon-photonic modulator and resonant photodetector photonic integrated circuits scaling to 40 Tb/s capacity at 150 fJ/b energy efficiency and 16 Tb/s/mm I/O density will be developed by the UC Davis team. The team will also design a novel 3D packaging method for vertical integration of photonic and electrical integrated circuits with a 10,000 pad-per-square-mm interconnect-pad-density to accomplish this.

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