Intel is co-funding the foundation of the Optoelectronics Systems Integration in Silicon (OpSIS) Centre at the University of Washington, a new research facility that will focus on silicon photonics technology.
Rather than relying on electrical connections between components, photonics instead transfers data over optical connections. Intel has already dabbled with high-speed optical data connections with its Light Peak technology, but it's hoped that photonics could enable optical connections inside mass-produced chips as well.
Michael Hochberg, assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University, stated that the University would 'like the photonics industry, 10 years from now, to function in a way that’s very similar to the electronics industry today. People building optoelectronic systems will send designs out to an inexpensive, reliable third party for manufacturing, so they can focus on being creative about the design.'
Intel's chief technology officer Justin Rattner was also confident about the success of the project, claiming 'OpSIS will enhance the education of US engineering students, giving them the opportunity to learn the new optical design paradigm. The ability to produce such low-cost silicon chips that manipulate photons, instead of electrons, will lead to new inventions and new industries beyond just data communications, including low-cost sensors, new biomedical devices and ultra-fast signal processors.'