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First light chip for communications developed

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New York: Engineers, one of them of Indian-origin, have successfully developed a single-chip microprocessor that uses light for communications  – a landmark development that opens the door to ultrafast, low-power data crunching.

The researchers packed two processor cores with more than 70 million transistors and 850 photonic components onto a 3-by-6-millimetre chip.

They fabricated the microprocessor in a foundry that mass-produces vbhigh-performance computer chips, proving that their design can be easily and quickly scaled up for commercial production.

The new chip marks the next step in the evolution of fiber optic communication technology by integrating into a microprocessor the photonic interconnects, or inputs and outputs (I/O), needed to talk to other chips.

“This is a milestone. It’s the first processor that can use light to communicate with the external world,” said Vladimir Stojanovic, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of California-Berkeley.

No other processor has the photonic I/O in the chip.

Stojanovic and fellow UC Berkeley professor Krste Asanovic teamed up with Rajeev Ram at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Milos Popovi at the University of Colorado, Boulder, to develop the new microprocessor.

“This is the first time we’ve put a system together at such scale, and have it actually do something useful, like run a programme,” added Asanovic.

The team found the chip had a bandwidth density of 300 gigabits per second per square millimeter, about 10 to 50 times greater than packaged electrical-only microprocessors currently on the market.

The photonic I/O on the chip is also energy-efficient.

The achievement opens the door to a new era of bandwidth-hungry applications.

One near-term application for this technology is to make data centres greener.

According to the US Natural Resources Defense Council, data centres consumed about 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2013 – about two percent of the total electricity consumed in the US.

The paper was published in the journal Nature. (IANS), (image courtesy:kenstonlocal.org)

Next Story

Scientists Produce Complex Glass From 3D Printing

The researchers can change various parameters in each layer, including pore size.

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3D printing or additive manufacturing
3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. Pixabay

Creating glass objects using 3D printing is not easy but a groups of researchers including one of Indian-origin has now used a better technique to produce complex glass objects with addictive manufacturing.

Researchers from ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich) used the method based on stereolithography, one of the first 3D printing techniques developed during the 1980s.

David Moore, Lorenzo Barbera and Kunal Masania in the Complex Materials group led by ETH processor Andre Studart developed a special resin that contains a plastic and organic molecules to which glass precursors are bonded.

The resin can be processed using commercially available ‘Digital Light Processing’ technology.

This involves irradiating the resin with UV light patterns. Wherever the light strikes the resin, it hardens because the light sensitive components of the polymer resin cross link at the exposed points.

3D Printing of molecules in hand
This image shows molecules in hand. The molecular model appears on the computer screen, tumbling and turning in real time as the person holding the object manipulates it. Pixabay

The plastic monomers combine to form a labyrinth like structure, creating the polymer. The ceramic-bearing molecules fill the interstices of this labyrinth, said the team in a paper published in the journal Natural Materials.

An object can thus be built up layer by layer. The researchers can change various parameters in each layer, including pore size.

“We discovered that by accident, but we can use this to directly influence the pore size of the printed object,” said Masania.

These 3D-printed glass objects are still no bigger than a die. Large glass objects, such as bottles, drinking glasses or window panes, cannot be produced in this way “which was not actually the goal of the project,” emphasised Masania.

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The aim was rather to prove the feasibility of producing glass objects of complex geometry using a 3D printing process. However, the new technology is not just a gimmick.

The researchers applied for a patent and are currently negotiating with a major Swiss glassware dealer who wants to use the technology in his company. (IANS)