Building the First Microprocessor that Communicates using Light
Joint Meeting with Boston Chapter, IEEE Photonics Society
Four decades on from the pioneering first steps at Bell Labs, microphotonics is at a transition from a few components to large-scale integrated systems on chip. In the near term, this can address severe bottlenecks seen in complex digital electronic systems – through integration with relatively simple but efficient photonic systems. In the longer term, tight integration and control means complex passive, active and nonlinear photonic structures enabling novel functions will become practical and may enable a new generation of integrated systems-on-chip for analog signal processing, computation, metrology and sensing.
In this talk, I will describe work on a new CMOS technology that enabled the simultaneous integration of millions of advanced CMOS transistors and thousands of photonic devices side-by-side on a single chip for the first time. The approach, "zero change CMOS photonics", bucked the trend in the photonics community of tailoring fabrication to design, instead pursuing a "design for manufacture" philosophy to photonic device design within fixed advanced-node CMOS microelectronics technology. It produced the efficient electronic-photonic systems of unprecedented integration scale, including record-energy optical transmitters, receivers and links, and resulted in the demonstration of the first microprocessor that communicates using light, with significant implications for computer architecture.
I will describe the approach, some of the device innovations and the system demonstrations they made possible, and will address some of the implications of this work in computing and its potential in other domains including datacom, quantum information processing, RF front ends and LIDAR.