On-chip optical links demonstrated by Dutch researchers

Posted on Monday, Jan 21 2019 @ 12:24 CET by Thomas De Maesschalck
Researchers at the University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands, managed to create world's first electronics chip that uses an on-chip optical link as an interconnect between two parts. At the moment, it's still a relatively slow method of communication. The researchers created an optocoupler that has a datarate of about 1Mbps and minimum energy consumption. Full details at the university's blog, which states it should be possible to increase the data rate by at least tenfold.
For the first time, researchers of the University of Twente succeeded in connecting two parts of an electronics chip using an on-chip optical link. A light connection can, for example, be a safe way of connecting high-power electronics and digital control circuitry on one chip, without a direct electrical link. Until now, however, an optical link was not possible using standard silicon chip technology. Vishal Agarwal, a UT PhD student, managed to do so. He realized a very small optocoupler circuit that delivers a data rate of Megabits per second in an energy-efficient way.

Using light, it is possible to isolate one part of a chip of another: the two different worlds will be able to communicate, but there is no electrical connection. In ‘smart power’ chips, the high-power part can be isolated from the digital control circuits. This isolation guarantees safe operation in application areas like medical electronics and automotive. A so-called ‘optocoupler’ is used for this, but until now, this is a bulky device, separated from the actual chip. The dream, having an on-chip optocoupler, has now been realized by Vishal Agarwal. His optocoupler can be integrated with the electronics using standard chip technology (CMOS). It is about 0,008 square millimeter in size and consumes minimal energy.

Via: Hexus

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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