Light-Emitting Silicon Could Solve Century-Old Problem For Faster Chip

Each day we are creating more data than ever. More and more people are getting online and a huge number of devices are connecting to the internet each day. The smart light bulb in your room to your smart fridge is creating a huge amount of data. We need faster chips to handle and analyze those data. That’s why chip manufacturers are trying to pack more transistors in a chip to achieve faster chips than the last generation. But current technology based on electronic chips is hitting its limit due to heat production in the chips. 

But you may ask how heat is limiting the power of the chip or blocking scientists from cramping more transistors in the chip. Well in an electronic chip electron carries data through a copper line from a transistor to another transistor and as the heat creates resistance, it blocks electron movement. So that’s why researcher from the Eindhoven University of Technology has created a Photonic Chip, which uses photon or another word light to carry the data instead of the electron. 

How Photon is Solving the Problem

The electron has mass and charges so it feels the resistance but in contrast, a photon is charge and massless that’s why it doesn’t feel any resistance. [Do not mix photon with proton] And moreover Photon scatters less within the material they travel through, and therefore no heat is produced. By eliminating electrical communication within a chip by optical communication, the speed of on-chip and chip-to-chip communication can be increased by a factor 1000. 

But to use light in a chip one needs a source of light. The current chips are made of silicon which is extremely inefficient at emitting light. Scientists could use more complex semiconductors, such as gallium arsenide and indium phosphide. These are good at emitting light but are more expensive than silicon and are hard to integrate into existing silicon microchips. 

That’s why together with researchers from the universities of Jena, Linz, and Munich, the researchers from the Eindhoven University of Technology have combined silicon and germanium in a hexagonal structure that is able to emit light.  

But Its Quite Not There

The thing is it can emit light but until now researchers could not yet make them emit light.  They have increased the quality of the hexagonal silicon-germanium shells by reducing the number of impurities and crystal defects. 

Lead researcher Bakkers thinks that it is matter time before they can make the silicon laser. According to him,” By now we have realized optical properties which are almost comparable to indium phosphide and gallium arsenide, and the quality of the materials is steeply improving. If things run smoothly, we can create a silicon-based laser in 2020.” After that, the next challenge will be figuring out how to integrate the laser with conventional electronic computer chips. “That would be very serious, but it’s also difficult,” Bakkers says. “We’re brainstorming to find a way to do this.”

So don’t expect this technology on your computer CPU anytime soon. But this exciting technology could help us solve our quest for a powerful and efficient chip in the future.

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