Sun Microsystems is expected to announce Monday a $44 million contract from the Pentagon to explore ways to replace wires between computer chips with laser beams, reports The New York Times.
The technology, called silicon photonics, could create a new generation of faster, more compact and energy-efficient computers. Just as cars on freeway on- and off-ramps don't drive at highway speeds, the story says, using wires between chips causes slowdowns and bottlenecks. They also produce excess electrical energy and heat.
Sun will build on previous research to determine whether using lasers instead will be technically feasible and the new technology can be manufactured commercially. Its five-year project also will involve Stanford University, the University of California-San Diego, and two silicon photonics firms, Luxtera and Kotura, according to The Register.