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Intel Reveals Faster than Light-Peak Technology


Intel Reveals Faster than Light-Peak Technology

For a few months now, those of a technical bent have been getting hot under the collar about a fibre optic-based Intel technology called Light Peak, which promises to revolutionise the speeds at which computers can transfer data. With speeds of up to 10Gbps it promises to replace USB, DisplayPort and HDMI in one swoop.

However, another optical technology promises to blow Light-Peak out of the water before it even arrives, by offering speeds of up to 50Gbps – and it’s once again from Intel.

These incredibly fast transfer speeds are based on a technology called Silicon Photonics, and has been created using what Intel calls Hybrid Silicon Laser technology - which sounds like a geek’s sci-fi wet dream come true.

Intel’s marketing people describe Silicon Photonics as capable of transmitting a high-definition movie in a second, though it didn’t specify the resolution or bit-rate of the movie - or indeed who was starring in it.

The idea behind Silicon Photonics is to use light beams to replace electrons to shuffle data around, as copper based wiring is reaching a bottleneck in terms of both the amount of data it is able to transfer and the distances it can transfer it over.

The 50G Silicon Photonics Link, as it’s snappily called at the moment, uses lasers rather than copper wires. It takes advantages of Intel’s breakthroughs in combining optical technology with silicon, melding the high speed data transfer capabilities of optics with the low cost, high volume manufacturing processes of silicon.

The link consists of four hybrid silicon lasers, beaming between two silicon chips, a transmitter and a receiver. There are four optical channels, each running at 12.5Gbps, creating the 50Gbps headline speed – which is five times faster than Light-Peak. The lasers are essentially part of the silicon wafer, eliminating the need for a separate optical module, as in Light-Peak.

"This achievement of the world's first 50Gbps silicon photonics link with integrated hybrid silicon lasers marks a significant achievement in our long term vision of ‘siliconizing' photonics and bringing high bandwidth, low cost optical communications in and around future PCs, servers, and consumer devices" Justin Rattner, Intel chief technology officer and director of Intel Labs said.

However, it’s not stopping there and Intel said that by modulating the speed and the number of channels it plans to scale up to 1Tbps transfer speed. Terascale computing – transferred in a second.

Intel still plans on bringing Light-Peak to market as early as next year but implied that it would do so for mainstream platforms, while the 50G Silicon Photonics link, would be three to five years away and would be reserved for high-end enterprise use.

Link: Intel blog


July 28, 2010, 4:59 pm

great idea but where are the processors running at light speed to enable use.


July 28, 2010, 5:33 pm

Faster than light, I don't think so! The data (laser light pulses) would transfer data to and from the connectors at the speed of light (within that medium), but there would still be delays and limitations due to the laser diodes, modulator, mux, demux and photodetector areas. Plus it would seem that each channel is only running a 12.5 Gbps (approximately 25 GHz, giving 40 ps (picoseconds) between each pulse/no-pulse) at the mo. Also these optical interconnects are designed for internal interconnections, CPU to memory, IO, etc at present, not external buses, though that shouldn't be a problem to implement. Conventional copper interconnects have no end of problems when they are operated at these higher data rates (frequencies). Whether or not this leads to some copper interconnects between subsystems, or even within chips being replaced by optical based ones is the important point of note here.

Geoff Richards

July 28, 2010, 5:46 pm

@Eddburt1969 - apologies for the slightly misleading headline. This new tech is faster than the previously announced Intel Light Peak. It is not "faster than light". But you're correct in what you said :)


July 28, 2010, 6:27 pm


Intel are a bit rubbish

Benny Har-Even

July 28, 2010, 7:07 pm

@Geoff Richards


Headline reads Faster than Light-Peak - the dash is there for a reason. Light-Peak is a product and this is faster than Light-Peak. It's therefore accurate, so take exception to the misleading headline comment!


July 28, 2010, 9:18 pm

Although, to be fair, the headline would be much, much more interesting, if the -Peak bit was omitted :)


July 28, 2010, 10:18 pm

@pbryanw - but it would have infinite mass and probably break the TR webserver ... :(

Bill 2

July 29, 2010, 9:32 pm

The comparison between silicon photonics and light-peak is an apples-to-orange type comparison. Light-peak is a communication link between peripherals while the silicon photonics is on-chip. Fiber on-chip communications have been talked about for years. It is amazing that someone actually made it happen.

Howard Evans

September 30, 2010, 1:48 am

Some of us could see this coming thirty years ago. It has just taken that long for the technology to catch up with the vision. Silicon photonics is today sort of like the laser when it was first invented: a solution looking for a problem. In this dawning new age of nano-technology, some form of optical communcation will be both necessary and more efficient than metal conductors for interprocess and interdevice data exchange. The future in electronics is operation at the molecular and/or cellular level exchanging messages encoded on individual photons. Well, one possible future anyway. Way to go, Intel! What could we do with 1 THz or faster data streams? Put on and tie down your vision caps, young engineers graduating today. I predict a really wild ride!


December 5, 2010, 8:50 pm

"Intel still plans on bringing Light-Peak to market as early as next year but implied that it would do so for mainstream platforms,"

YAY , bring 10Gig Ethernet Over Lightpeak ASAP, we want to actually Buy this fibre LAN thing Right NOW.

people are sick of waiting for the antiquated RJ45 Vendors to make better than 10/100/1000 1 gigE kit for the SMB/SOHO , these vendors have milked the copper ethernet for Far To Long and still nothing we want to pay for,that never gets made.

it Now time for 10 Gig Ethernet Over Lightpeak all the way, so Bring it on Right Now.

" while the 50G Silicon Photonics link, would be three to five years away and would be reserved for high-end enterprise use. "

Boooo, stuff enterprise, star trek is years away ;), i want 50G Fibre in SOHO Kit at a good price far sooner than 3 to 5 years.

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