February 21, 2005 (HOSTSEARCH.COM) Light speed Scotty! Thursday, Intel took a big step towards light speed data transmission, announcing their silicone based laser.
Intel researchers have found a way to use the Raman effect and silicon's crystalline structure to amplify light as it passes through it. When infused with light from an external source the experimental chip produces a continuous, high-quality laser beam. While still 4-5 years from becoming a commercial product, the ability to build a laser from standard silicon could lead to computers that move data at the speed of light - ushering in a flood of new applications for high-speed computing.
Building a Raman laser in silicon begins with etching a waveguide -- a conduit for light on a chip. Silicon is transparent to infrared light so that when light is directed into a waveguide it can be contained and channeled across a chip. Intel researchers used an external light source to "pump" light into their chip. As light is pumped in, the natural atomic vibrations in silicon amplify the light as it passes through the chip. This amplification - the Raman effect -- is more than 10,000 times stronger in silicon than in glass fibers. Raman lasers and amplifiers are used today in the telecom industry and rely on miles of fiber to amplify light. By using silicon, Intel researchers were able to achieve gain and lasing in a silicon chip just a few centimeters in size.
"We have a wide range of long-term research programs in place to find new ways of applying our silicon expertise to make life better for people," said Kevin Kahn, Intel Senior Fellow, director, Communications Technology Lab. "For example, we are developing wireless sensor networks that could be used to spot equipment failures in factories and even on ships at sea before they happen, or used to improve healthcare services for the elderly. With the Silicon Photonics program, our goal is to use our silicon manufacturing techniques to mass-produce low-cost optical devices so the benefits of high-bandwidth photonics can be used throughout the computing and communications industries."