Optical networking with a 'splash of paint'

Optical networking with a 'splash of paint'

New technique could revolutionise networking speeds

A new technique developed by researchers at the University of Toronto could slash the cost of building fibre-optic networking into computers.

Linking optical fibre to silicon is the goal of Intel and others, but previous techniques have required expensive hardware that would price PCs out of the reach of many businesses.

This new solution uses nanometre-sized particles of semiconductor suspended in a solvent like the particles in paint, allowing a direct connection and promising faster networking without a significant price premium.

"We have made a laser that can be smeared onto another material," said Ted Sargent, of the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Toronto.

"This is the first paint-on semiconductor laser to produce the invisible colours of light needed to carry information through fibre-optics. The infrared light could, in the future, be used to connect microprocessors on a silicon computer chip."

Intel has tried to achieve similar results with a silicon laser but the new technique could obviate the need for all that expensive hardware.

Lionel C. Kimerling, Thomas Lord Professor of Materials Science and director of the Microphotonics Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, praised Sargent's work.

"The wavelength and the thermal budget of the Toronto laser are very appealing for applications in optical interconnects," he said.

"The performance is excellent, particularly the temperature insensitivity of the output wavelength."