Intel wants to make a chip that would hold a laser, modulator and a light detector - all made of silicon. It's got the laser and the modulator, and now, this week, Intel announced it'd succeeded in making a light detector of silicon.
And the reason, dear reader, why we should care about this is that such a chip would drastically reduce the cost of Internet bandwidth, according to Technology Review. It could also mean more speed for computers. Hoo-rah!
The hard part was building a light detector out of silicon. Silicon just doesn't work as a light detecting device. So Intel rewrote the engineering for light detectors, using the silicon as a waveguide that collected and held the light. On top of the silicon, it grew a layer of germanium, which is what really does the light detecting, according to the article.
The problem is, when you put silicon together with germanium, you get a lot of cracks - that's not good for electronic devices or, really, anything. So, the real breakthrough here is how Intel managed to connect silicon and germanium so they mix like peas and carrots. And that's also the proprietary part, so tough luck if you were hoping to learn how they did it.
The next step? Putting all three on one device that can pass quality control tests. Mario Paniccia, who directs Intel's silicon-photonics lab, told Technology Review that users could reap the benefits of Intel's research within the next five years.
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Should you choose to ignore this warning and make a small fortune, drop me an e-mail and I'll let you know where to send my 5 percent.