28 Apr '16
Physicists at Moscow’s MIPT, a leading Russian university focused on physics and technology, also known as Phystech, have developed a cooling system or the plasmon components of optoelectronic chips which are expected to run tens of thousands of times faster than today’s computers.
Their research has shown that using efficient multilayer thermal interfaces several nano- and micrometers thick in combination with conventional cooling systems can lower the temperature of a chip to a level which is just about 10 degrees Celsius above the ambient temperature. This appears to be opening much broader horizons for the use of optoelectronic chips in areas ranging from supercomputers to compact electronic devices, and traditional cooling systems reinforced with the new solution may still be widely used.
Modern computer technologies are built around electrons that move. The development of such technologies is severely hampered by physical factors that make it impossible to reduce the size of a device and lower an operating frequency.
Today, conventional electronic ICs operate about as fast as they possibly can. In fact, the ability of a computer to run faster is not only dependent on the capacity of one kernel; it hinges also on the speed of data exchange between kernels. Conventional electrical copper couplings in chips have a very limited throughput capacity, and no increase in chip capacity can be achieved with them. In simpler words, doubling the number of kernels won’t help double the capacity of your computer.
In an attempt to address the problem, physicists turned to optics, trying to replace electrons with photons. If they pull it off, the next generation of computers called optical computers will arise, capable of operating at least tens of thousands of times faster than the computers we have today.
Replacing electrons with photons is expected to enable the transmission of large volumes of data between chip kernels virtually within a split second. That’s why a large number of research teams across the world, including the leaders in the sector such as IBM, Oracle, Intel, HP and others, are working on the development of super-fast optical systems that could help retire electronic ones. Photonics is an area that already attracts billions of dollars in investment.