Optoelectronic integration overcoming processor bottlenecks
One of the biggest obstacles facing computer systems today is the problem of memory latency, the time a computer must wait to access the data stored in memory despite faster processor speeds. Two demonstrators reveal that optoelectronics may offer solutions.
“Your domestic PC these days can have a processor of two GHz and faster – this is quite common – but the processor power will often be wasted because the real bottleneck in computer processing is the memory.” That is John Snowdon of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, speaking about the objectives of the HOLMS project.
“Optoelectronic technologies are the only way to bridge the present gap between processor speed and memory bandwidth,” says John Snowdon of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, of the HOLMS IST project. “This has been documented by the SIA, the Semiconductor Industry Association in the US.”
“Your domestic PC these days can have a processor of two GHz and faster – this is quite common – but the processor power will often be wasted because the real bottleneck in computer processing is the memory,” he says.
As a result participants in HOLMS set out to make the use of board-level optical interconnection in information systems practical and economical. They aimed to develop optoelectronic technology to the point where it would be compatible with standard electronic assembly processes. HOLMS focused on two key areas of optical technology: a seamless opto-mechanical interface to commercial parallel-fibre arrays, and low-cost optical waveguides that could be easily integrated into conventional printed circuit boards (PCBs).
“What is key about HOLMS is our work on optoelectronic packaging – how to make optoelectronic technologies more compatible with market and industry needs,” he continues. “We were able to take the signals from a fibre and push them into a high-bandwidth free-space optical connection, one which is capable of addressing many electronic processors simultaneously. So the latency is as low as you can get – essentially we’re working at light speed with many thousands of channels.”
The key achievement of HOLMS, believes Snowdon, was the project’s success in integrating fibre-optics with free-space technologies and optical PCBs – to form a powerful three-part optoelectronic interface. “We started from a pioneering research point-of-view, but with a commercial goal – that’s why we have so many industrial partners. This level of integration has not been achieved before outside the laboratory.”
HOLMS ends in September 2005, and the participants have developed two working demonstrators to show the functional aspects of the technology. The two main university partners, Hagen University (Germany) and Heriot-Watt, are both integrating the knowledge gained into their academic research.
Several of the industrial partners, including ILFA (PCB manufacturer) and Siemens of Germany, and Thales in France, have incorporated the results into their product development. Thales is investigating the potential of HOLMS’ optoelectronics technology for use in very-high-speed embedded systems in defence applications, while Siemens is believed to be developing a high-bandwidth optical waveguide PCB that could be on the market in as little as two years.
“It is the potential of this technology for the domestic markets that is so exciting,” says Snowdon. “This kind of technology could be built into the everyday PC within just two generations of development, which is no time at all.”
Tara Morris | alfa
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...