Silicon photonics is a useful platform for high-bandwidth, low-energy optical connections in data centers and high-performance computing systems. On-chip wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) optical interconnects are proposed to address the bandwidth density difficulty.

Researchers from Oregon State University and Baylor University have found a breakthrough in lowering the power consumption of photonic circuits used in data centers and supercomputers.

This is important because data centers require up to 50 times more energy per square meter of floor space than a conventional office building.

A data center houses an organization’s IT operations and equipment, as well as data and applications that are stored, processed, and distributed. According to the DOE, data centers consume about 2% of all electricity in the United States.

According to the United States International Trade Commission, data centers have proliferated as data consumption has increased.

There are more than 2,600 data centers in the United States, home to several companies that generate and use massive amounts of data, including Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.

It involves a brand new, incredibly energy-efficient technique for accounting for temperature fluctuations that weaken photonic chips.

According to Conley. “These chips will form the high-speed communications backbone of future data centers and supercomputers.”

The innovation includes an all-new, incredibly energy-efficient technique to account for temperature fluctuations that wreak havoc on photonic chips. Data transfer is fast and energy-efficient thanks to photons, which are light particles.

The problem with photonic chips is that they require a lot of energy to maintain a constant temperature and great performance.

Wang’s group has shown that it is possible to minimize the energy required for temperature control by more than 1 million.

He said, “Alan is an expert on photonic materials and devices, and my area of ​​expertise is the deposition of atomic layers and electronic devices. We’ve made working prototypes that show that temperature can be controlled via gate voltage, meaning virtually no electrical current is used.

According to Wang, the photonics industry currently relies solely on “thermal heaters” to precisely tune the operating wavelengths of fast, electro-optical devices and improve their performance. These thermal heaters each consume several milliwatts of electricity.

Researcher said: “That may not sound like much when you consider that a typical LED bulb uses 6 to 10 watts. However, multiply those few milliwatts by millions of devices, and they quickly add up, so that approach faces challenges as systems scale and become bigger and more powerful.

This technology is better for the environment because it allows data centers to become faster and more powerful while consuming less energy.

Intel, NASA and the National Science Foundation funded this study.

Magazine reference:

  1. Hsu, WC., Nujhat, N., Kupp, B., et al. On-chip wavelength-division multiplexing filters using high-efficiency gated silicon microring resonator array. Scientific Reports. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-32313-0