InterviewUS Dow Corning, IBM develop silicone polymer for photonics

22 February 2013 20:06  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US silicone producer Dow Corning and US data technology company IBM have developed a new polymer material that creates optical wavelengths in high-performance computers, an executive said on Friday.

The polymer waveguide silicone is an easily processable material that is durable and flexible, said Simon Jones, business builder for Dow Corning Electronics.

The material can be fabricated using conventional manufacturing techniques, Dow Corning said. It is also stable at extreme operating conditions, shows no curling and can bend to a 1mm radius.

“We’re just embarking on improving the materials that meet the requirements that are needed in the industry,” Jones said. “Now that the material can meet the requirements, we’re working toward building prototypes and the systems that need it.”

That will probably happen sometime this year, Jones added, and hopefully in another two or three years, companies will actually be producing computer and data systems with these links in them.

Optical interconnect technology uses light instead of electrical signals to transfer data, offering greater bandwidth while drastically reducing energy.

“When you put data rate signals down copper systems, you get like a radio signal emanating from the copper wires,” Jones said. “What happens is, from one channel to the next, you can get crosstalk. It gets increasingly more difficult with the data rate and frequency for all of this data to go on.”

“Big Data” and exascale computers are capable of performing a billion billion computations per second, Dow Corning said. With exabytes of data growing annual at 60%, scientists are trying to find more efficient ways to move all that data from the processor to the printed circuit board of a computer.

“Another factor is the amount of power you need to drive the data down a copper maker, and the cost of the copper maker goes up quite steeply with the length of the link,” Jones said. “With optical links, you’re shooting light instead of electrical signals, so you can make longer lengths without increasing cost and consumption.”

As a result, data links are moving from copper to optical, and they are getting shorter, he added. This is beneficial for those needing high-performance computers because they can put in more processors and memory chips and connect them closer together.

The main drivers are high-performance computers and Internet routers, which have the biggest issues today with transferring very large amounts of data, Jones said.

“What happens today is all the way down to laptops, [computers] are getting more and more performance, and ought to process more data,” Jones said. “What’s likely to happen is it is adopted tomorrow in all computers and maybe hand-held devices.”

The company is a joint venture between Dow Chemical and Corning.


By: Tracy Dang
+1 713 525 2653



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