After a decade of research, conversion of electrical signals to light for high speed transmission is edging into production
Board-level integration of optics on or in PCB laminate is another alternative, and may be the first step towards solutions for higher speeds at lower power and costs for high performance computing and data centers, argues Roe Hemenway, vice president of advanced technology at Photonics Controls, who will talk about the MIT Microphotonics Consortium's recent work developing a roadmap for board-level optical interconnect. The board-level optics require no new invention and can largely use the established circuit board assembly and packaging infrastructure, with simple designs and relaxed performance specifications to attain viable yields and reduce costs, by eliminating extra levels of packaging, he suggests, although the low cost, high precision attachment of the fibers remains a key challenge.
Initial solutions will likely first use a fiber wiring harness above the circuit board, and then move to embedded waveguides within the laminate. First applications will be for high performance data center computing and high density server clusters, with point-to-point light pipe links, but the optical connections will also enable greater capability for features like distance independence, switching, redundancy, architectural flexibility and bypasses to work around failures. "On-board optical connections will come faster than many people expect," suggests Hemenway.
These industry leaders and others will discuss these latest developments in silicon photonics in a new program this year at SEMICON West, July 10 in San Francisco. It's part of a series of programs that aim to update the larger semiconductor community on progress in key emerging technologies.
Paula Doe is an analyst for advanced technologies at the chip production equipment trade group SEMI.