A new type of processor has been developed by the researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, one that uses light in order to transmit data. Together with other universities, UC Berkeley experts have created a revolutionary, world’s first processor that fully works with light.
This cutting-edge processor is much more advanced than conventional electric chips, having the ability to process 300 Gbps per square millimeter. Compared to a standard processor, that’s 10 to 50 times more data.
The new chip measures 3 by 6 millimeters, and it features 2 processor cores with 70 million transistors. In addition to that, we have 850 photonic components, which are used to receive and send light.
"This is a milestone. It's the first processor that can use light to communicate with the external world," said Vladimir Stojanović, associate professor of electrical engineering at UC Berkeley, in a statement. "No other processor has the photonic I/O in the chip."
The advantages of chips that use light instead of electricity are multiple. First, they can send data in multiple streams, thanks to different colors of the light that passes through a chip or an optical wire. The second advantage is that these chips can use infrared light, whose physical wavelength is less than one micron. To put it in into perspective, that’s about 100th the width of a human hair, which means a lot more components can be fitted onto a single chip. The third advantage of these light-based chips is that they are much more energy-efficient, which is highly beneficial for data centers.
The new processor is much more advanced than most electric processors that arecurrently available, but its potential has not beenfully realized yet.