Sun Sets Out to Replace Wires in Computer Chips with Laser Beams

Rob Williams

Staff member
From our front-page news:
Computer chips can offer fast performance, we know this. But, the Pentagon believes that there should be a faster method to transmit information between chips than the typical wire. So, they've given Sun Microsystems a $44 million contract to explore the prospect of replacing these wires with laser beams.

In theory, replacing the wires with a laser beam would offer major benefits in every regard. For one, it would rid the problem of current leakage and could improve temperatures (probably), while also improving the performance dramatically. Though it seems like a far-out estimate, the article at the New York Times states that a beam of laser light could carry tens of billions of bits of data a second. Wow.

But, this project is not one that can give us great confidence in seeing a final product. One of the researchers at Sun Laboratories is quoted as saying the project has a 50% chance of failure. For a lottery, those odds would be great, but where a $44 million project is involved, they don't seem overly promising. The goal is immense, but if laser beams replacing wires become a reality, the future of computer chips could be very interesting.

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The wires that connect chips are analogous to the on and off ramps that cars use to move between freeways — just as cars slow down as they move onto city streets from multilane highways, electrical signals run more slowly between chips. The bottlenecks also generate additional electrical current and heat.

Source: New York Times

Greg King

I just kinda show up...
Staff member
I wonder how this will work. While the time it takes to move data over one jump (the span of one laser or one traditional circuit path), how will it effect the size of the chips themselves? Something is going to have to be added to create the laser beam and something is going to have to be added to receive the data in laser form. Will this add to the overall size of the machine and how will this effect efficiency?

Regardless, it's an exciting. Speaking of data moving in light, I cannot wait for USB 3.0. It cant get here fast enough.


Tech Monkey
This is going to be a interesting tech to follow in the future, data traveling at the speed of light............:)


The Tech Wizard
This is going to be a interesting tech to follow in the future, data traveling at the speed of light............:)
It's already here, has been for a while.
Cable TV comes to a point ( Node ) in a neighborhood as optical, then it is processed into a RF signal from there to amps and taps.
The closer you live to a Node, the faster your internet speed is..
( ooooops that was a secret ) :eek:

:techgage::techgage: Merlin :techgage::techgage: