IBM’s Next Project: the Illudium Q-36 Electro-Optic Space Modulator
The so-called Mach-Zehnder electro-optic modulator transmits data between between multiple cores on a chip using pulses of light through silicon, instead of electrical signals on wires. It’s 100 to 1,000 times smaller than previously demonstrated modulators, and it transmits data 100 times faster than traditional copper wires while using 10 times less power.
If IBM’s able to replicate it commercially–and the company insists it can–it could inspire a vast array of new highly portable supercomputers that expend as little energy as a lightbulb. “Just like fiber-optic networks have enabled the rapid expansion of the Internet by enabling users to exchange huge amounts of data from anywhere in the world, IBM’s technology is bringing similar capabilities to the computer chip,” Will Green, IBM’s lead scientist on the project, told Reuters. “You immediately can envision the mobile applications that that would allow you to do. Remote laboratory instruments for medical applications, screening for diseases or even complicated DNA analysis.”