NEC turns to laser-power data

NEC is claiming it has broken data transfer records with chips using lasers rather than metal connections.

According to New Scientist, NEC demonstrated laser communications chips capable of data transfers up to 25Gbps – a record for such processors, according to the company.

NEC built a semiconducting laser diode called a Vertical-Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (VCSEL) that converts electrical signals into laser pulses. It is constructed from a more conductive alloy than conventional aluminium diodes of this nature.

The data is carried between processors via optical fibres and, taken together, such a setup could provide a massive boost in computing power, possibly leading to the first petaflop computers. Such a system would be able to perform one thousand trillion calculations each second.

However, questions remain as to whether a petaflop-grade supercomputer constructed using this technology would even be financially viable, let alone how feasible it would be to cool and power such a machine.

NEC is confident that the potential applications for a supercomputer of this power would see it in demand. It expects such a system to be able to carry out simulations of the entire human body at a cellular level.

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