Updated: November 20th, 2019

Silicon photonics products are now on the market. Why are they necessary and what does this mean for interconnect manufacturers?

By Neil Shurtz

In 1965, Fairchild Semiconductor’s Gordon Moore published his famous paper outlining a future where innovation would allow the number of transistors on an integrated circuit to double every couple of years. Remarkably, he was proven right for nearly 50 years. However, things eventually started to slow down and in 2015, Gordon Moore himself predicted his own law’s demise within the decade.

Part of the problem is that physically engineering gates at their current miniscule scale is becoming difficult. With conventional designs, it is hard to control the flow of electrons. Several clever innovations in this area present the possibility of allowing Moore’s Law to remain relevant into the future, even if innovation in transistors continues to languish. One of these innovations is silicon photonics.

300mm Silicon Photonics Wafer. (Credit: Ehsanshahoseini, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://ow.ly/3UpG30kBIcV.)

Building a Balanced Computer

While researchers continue to work on ways to squeeze as many transistors onto microchips as possible, others are focusing on improving the speed and efficiency of everything around the switches at the heart of a microprocessor. No matter how fast and powerful processors become, the infrastructure around them — on-chip and inter-chip interconnects and cabling — will eventually become a bottleneck that limits their performance. With the ability to fit transistors onto chips slowing down, a technology has emerged that can augment current transistor densities for better performance.

In 2003, James D. Meindl