Friday, 27 October 2017

Material Could Bring Optical Communication Onto Silicon Chips

Soon silicon chips will feature optical communication with the discovery of a new material

With each passing year computing performance has advanced significantly and if we take decades into the equation then you will be astonished at the rate of advancement. Computing performance boost has been achieved through squeezing more number of transistors within a relatively tighter space on the microchips. Now scientists have been able to develop such ultrathin films placed on the semiconductor making optical communication possible on the microchips.

The ‘interconnect bottleneck’ in optical communication

The downsizing of the microchips over the years had led to signal leakage between the different components which eventually results in slower communication between them. This delay in communication has been termed as ‘interconnect bottleneck’ which has emerged as a major issue in the high-speed computing systems.

One of the best ways to eliminate the interconnect bottleneck in microchip is to make use of light to allow communication between different parts. Using wires for communication is simply out of the question but even using light isn’t a simple or easy way as silicon used to make chip doesn’t’ happen to emit light easily.

Finding a new material to emit light

Researchers have found a light emitter as well as detector which can help in bringing optical communication by integrating it in the silicon CMOS chips. A new device has been built from a common semiconductor material, molybdenum ditelluride, which belongs to a new revolution group of materials called two-dimensional transition-metal dichalcogenides.

The best thing about this material is that it can be stacked right top of the silicon wafers which wasn’t the case earlier. This 2D molybdenum ditelluride is such a remarkable ultra-thin material that it can be easily attached with any material without much hassle. A major difficulty faced by the scientists while looking for materials to integrate with the silicon semiconductors is that most of materials happen to emit light in the visible range. And silicon is notorious for absorbing the light emitted at such wavelengths. While molybdenum ditelluride happens to emit light in the infrared range which can’t be absorbed by the silicon and thereby it helps in enabling the optical communication on the microchip.


Future prospects of this new discovery in optical communication

Researchers have stepped their efforts towards finding other materials which can also be used for the chip based optical communication in future. Currently most of the telecommunication system operates mainly using the light having the wavelength of 1.3 or 1.5 micrometers. The good thing here is that molybdenum ditelluride happens to emit light at 1.1 micrometer which is suitable for usage in the silicon chips found specifically in the computers but unsuitable when it comes to usage in the telecommunications systems.

Therefore researchers are again looking for a new material which can help initiating the optical communication the telecommunication systems. Currently they are exploring another ultra-thin material known as black phosphorus which has the potential to emit light through altering the different layers used in the process. This research has been published in the science journal called Nature Nanotechnology.

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