Recently, AMD has shown interest in photonic (light) technologies for the purpose of data transfer between two ends. In 2020, the company filed a patent that would reportedly use photon-based technologies for communication.
What is photonics?
Basically, photonics deals with the transmission of photons (light particles). Light essentially has a dual nature as was discovered by Louis de Broglie. Light functions simultaneously as an electromagnetic wave and as well as a particle. This is why light while having no mass can have momentum (P=mv).
Photonics acts as a sub-branch of optics. The initial purpose was to use light for transmission. Thus came the invention of the fiber optic cable which used light instead of electric signals which were carried over via Copper. Fiber Optic cables use the principle of total internal reflection allowing for minimal losses while travelling over long distances. The best part is that the information is sent at near light speed, a reduction in speed results due to a few losses in energy.
In chips, photonic technology aims to deliver data from one point to another in the form of light. This is thought to replace the conventional method of transferring data via electric signals which are prone to external magnetic fields. The advantage being with the newer technology is near light-speed data transfer.
AMD plans on replacing the old method of transferring signals thus minimizing latency while being power efficient. This is indeed the future!
- 100 – semiconductor chip package.
- 105 – System-on-Chip (SoC)
- 110 – photonic chip
- 120 – attached fiber optic cable
- 130 – mold compound
- 135 – single wafer substrate
- 140 – Organic Redistribution Layer (ORDL)
- 145 – microbumps attaching the SoC (105) and photonic chip (110) to the ORDL (140)
- 150 – glob top
- 155 – underfill
- 160 – standard Ball Grid Array (BGA)
The actual working of this design is really technical and would be a bit hard to make out from here. Being a patent, you cannot exactly replicate this design. However, additional designs featuring the same technology are allowed giving room to more giants such as Intel to step into the world of light transfer.
A basic rundown of the working is that the ORDL (140) will carry the light waves to the actual SoC (105), which after processing will be transmitted via the ORDL again to the photonic chip (110). The photonic chip (110) with the help of a fiber optic cable (120) will transfer this processed information to the required destination.
Sadly, this is not possible by today’s standards as the chips utilize redistribution layers which are metallic when they should be organic. Organic technology is used in OLEDs where organic substances produce light depending upon the electrical current exposed to them.
Photonic technology has already revolutionized our Internet, TVs. Now it aims to enhance the working of our chips. It wont be far until we see this technology in effect, however, one thing that intrigues me the most is its use in SSDs. SSDs with such technology would surpass all current competition delivering extremely fast speeds with almost no latency.