The World’s First Programmable Photonic Chip

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In a revolutionary step for telecommunications, data centers, and artificial intelligence systems, researchers at UPV’s Photonics Research Laboratory in Spain worked with private company iPronics to develop the world’s first universal, programmable, and multifunctional photonic chip.

Artificial intelligence technology is progressing and growing at a mind-blowing pace, and even as companies continue to build smaller and faster chips, the limitations of electronics-based computing technology are becoming more and more evident.

According to Interesting Engineering, electronic chips produce heat as a byproduct, and with artificial intelligence-based applications and data centers having chips on a large scale, they generate huge amounts of heat, requiring more power for cooling infrastructure and making the entire setup highly inefficient.

A photonic chip is similar to the silicon-based chips we are familiar with, but instead of using electrons and electronic components like resistors or transistors to process information, it does so by using photons or light with optical components like waveguides, lasers, and polarizers. This approach allows for further miniaturized chips capable of processing information faster with low thermal effects.

The researchers behind this discovery built a revolutionary chip that allows on-demand programming and interconnects the wireless and photonic segments seamlessly, an approach that removes bottlenecks and improves the capacity and bandwidth of the chip.

The team said in a press release that it has developed an interface chip – a converter that goes behind the antenna, which is as tiny and compact as possible while supporting both the frequency bands that are currently used and those that will used in the future.

Daniel Pérez-López, co-founder and CTO of iPronics explained: “For us, the development of this chip is a crucial step because it has allowed the validation of our developments applied to a growing problem, the efficient management of data flows in data centers and networks for artificial intelligence computing systems…Our next goal is to scale the chip to meet the needs of this market segment.”