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Silicon Photonics

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Entries in Moore's Law (8)


IoT will drive chip design and new styles of computing

Looking back 20 years hence, how will this period be viewed? The question was posed by the CEO of imec, Luc Van de hove, during his opening talk at a day event imec organised in Tel-Aviv.

For Van den hove, this period will be seen as one of turbulent technological change. “The world is changing at an incredible rate,” he says. “The era of digital disruption is changing our industry and this disruption is not going to stop.”

Luc Van den hove

It was the Belgium nonoelectronics R&D centre’s second visit to Israel to promote its chip and systems expertise as it seeks to expand its links with Israel’s high-tech industry. And what most excites imec is the Internet of Things (IoT), the advent of connected smart devices that turn data into information and adapt the environment to our needs.

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Tackling system design on a data centre scale 

Silicon photonics luminaries series

Interview 1: Andrew Rickman

Silicon photonics has been a recurring theme in the career of Andrew Rickman. First, as a researcher looking at the feasibility of silicon-based optical waveguides, then as founder of Bookham Technologies, and after that as a board member of silicon photonics start-up, Kotura.


Andrew Rickman

Now as CEO of start-up Rockley Photonics, his company is using silicon photonics alongside its custom ASIC and software to tackle a core problem in the data centre: how to connect more and more servers in a cost effective and scaleable way.

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Imec gears up for the Internet of Things economy  

Luc Van den hove is talking in the darkened ballroom in a hotel next to the brilliantly sunlit marina in Herzliya.

It is the imec's CEO's first trip to Israel and around us the room is being prepared for an afternoon of presentations the Belgium nanoelectronics research centre will give on its work in such areas as the Internet of Things and 5G wireless to an audience of Israeli start-ups and entrepreneurs.


Luc Van den hoveImec announced in February its plan to merge with iMinds, a Belgium research centre specialising in systems software and security, a move that will add 1,000 staff to imec's 2,500 researchers.

At first glance, the world-renown semiconductor process technology R&D centre joining forces with a systems house is a surprising move. But for Van den hove, it is a natural development as the company continues to grow from its technology origins to include systems-based research.

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Interconnection networks - an introduction

Part 2: Data centre switching primer to provide some background as to what Rockley Photonics is doing.    

Source: Jonah D. Friedman

If moving information between locations is the basis of communications, then interconnection networks represent an important subcategory. 

The classic textbook, Principles and Practices of Interconnection Networks by Dally and Towles, defines interconnection networks as a way to transport data between sub-systems of a digital system.

The digital system may be a multi-core processor with the interconnect network used to link the on-chip CPU cores. Since the latest processors can have as many as 100 cores, designing such a network is a significant undertaking.

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Rockley demos a silicon photonics switch prototype  

Part 1: Rockley Photonics

Rockley Photonics has made a prototype switch to help grow the number of servers that can be linked in a data centre. The issue with interconnection networks inside a data centre is that they do not scale linearly as more servers are added.  


Dr. Andrew Rickman

“If you double the number of servers connected in a mega data centre, you don’t just double the complexity of the network, it goes up exponentially,” explains Andrew Rickman, co-founder, chairman and CEO at Rockley Photonics. “That is the problem we are addressing.”

By 2017 and 2018, it will still be possible to build the networks that large-scale data centre network operators require, says Rickman, but at an ever increasing cost and with a growing power consumption. “The basic principles of what they are doing needs to be rethought,” he says.

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Moore's law and silicon photonics

It is rare for a trade magazine article to receive so much coverage 50 years after publication. But then it is not often that an observation made in an article becomes a law, a law that explained how electronics would become a transformative industry. 

Chip pioneer Gordon E. Moore’s article appeared in the magazine Electronics in 1965. Dr. Moore was the director of the R&D labs at Fairchild Semiconductor, an early maker of transistors. Moore went on to co-found Intel, then a memory company, and became its second CEO after Robert Noyce. 

Moore’s article was written in the early days of integrated circuits. At the time, silicon wafers were one inch in diameter and integrating 50 components on a chip was deemed a state-of-the-art design

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Is silicon photonics an industry game-changer? 

Briefing: Silicon Photonics

Part 3: Merits, challenges and applications   

Shown in blue are the optical waveguides with their tight bend radius while the copper wires carrying high-speed electrical signals is shown in orange. Source: IBM

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