Solutions: Photonics Is the Future of Technology Infrastructure

The future of computing requires chips running at much higher frequencies while using far less power. Enter photonic-based computing.

Chip development and innovation in computing and telecommunications have reached a plateau. For years, Moore’s Law — which stated that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles about every two years, while the cost of the microchip is halved — drove incredible performance improvements, but the law has reached a limit. Traditional semiconductor (CMOS)-based chips can only get faster through increased specialization, more complexity, and higher power usage.

Chart showing computing speed growth over time from 1965 to projected 2030 into the future with the use of photonics.

Shrinking conventional semiconductor technology’s now incredibly difficult and expensive. At only 20 silicon atoms wide, the current generation of chips approaches their physical limits. The level of fabrication precision needed and the complexity required leaves only a handful of companies capable of producing these components. This limitation means that performance growth must happen through increased numbers of processor cores and operating frequency. However, making CMOS electronics operate at higher frequencies requires exponentially more energy; greater numbers of cores requires a huge number of interconnects, which consume a substantial portion of the chip’s energy budget.

This problem — combined with an insatiable global demand for high-speed computing, networking, and data processing — is only amplified when adding the urgent need to lower our global energy consumption to fight the climate emergency. 

Photonics, data processing using light, has enabled great improvements in speed and power efficiency for network technologies (like fiber optics). The development of silicon photonics has allowed the manufacture of photonic chips, which are currently used in a variety of specialized networking applications. While fast, currently these components are too large and too power-hungry for integration into most computing systems.  

NLM’s organic electro-optic (OEO) materials platform solves demands for high-speed technology and lower energy consumption.

NLM is leading the way. We enable ultra-fast, ultra-efficient photonic (optical) computing, including interconnects in electronic chips, fiber and wireless networking technologies, and handling complex computing tasks needed for machine learning and other demanding photonic applications. This allows for explosive growth and innovation in next-wave computing.

We’re developing the ability for major chip and computer manufacturers to integrate ultra-compact, low-power, high-speed photonic components into production lines by building and innovating on existing silicon photonics technologies. This hybrid technology means change can start today, and building an infrastructure around photonic-based computing isn’t like flipping a switch from one type of technology to the next. Our OEO materials are also easy to use and applicable across lots of devices and other hardware. 

Let’s make a smart investment in our technological future together. 

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