Hewlett Packard Labs Creates World’s Largest Light-Based Integrated Circuit

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Today’s processors, regardless of their power, use transistor-based technology that has been around for decades. These transistors have gotten smaller and smaller and are now pushing the boundaries of what is possible with this electron-based technology.

In fact, Moore’s Law, which has predicted a continuous increase in processor performance throughout the history of computing, is starting to lose power and new types of processors are being sought to maintain processing power. IT on the rise. One of those technologies is light-based chips that could increase power without increasing power requirements, and Hewlett Packard Labs built the largest to date, because IEEE Spectrum Reports.

Hewlett Packard Labs is part of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), and HPE’s research arm is not the first to seek more computing power from photons instead of electrons. Light-based processors aren’t new, but HPE’s efforts bundle 1,052 optical components into a single chip, marking the largest and most complex effort in using light to perform calculations.

The United States Defense Advanced Research Project’s Agency (DARPA) is funding the project as part of its Mesodynamic architecture program, which aims to use unique materials and energies for “unmatched” communication, computation and other capabilities. HPE is currently working on implementing an Ising machine using the new chip, which is a computer model that uses certain properties of the magnetic fields of atoms to solve computationally difficult optimization problems, such than the “traveling salesman problem”.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

The HPE chip is an attempt to overcome some limitations in an earlier version Ising machine created at Stanford University which used mirrors, lasers and other optical parts. This machine suffered from sound interference, which the same team addressed by adding electronic feedback mechanisms. The HPE chip is intended to bypass the need for electronic feedback with a more compact design which by its nature avoids the effects of vibrations and other influences.

The science behind HPE’s new optical chip can be complex and difficult for anyone except the researchers behind it to understand, but its applications are clear. Such light-based Ising machines could be used to speed up some specialized computing applications, much like today’s fast GPUs are used in parallel processing machines. If Moore’s Law is resurrected, it could very well be done with light instead of electricity.

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