Another advantage of polymer, and especially of silicone, is its flexibility, since space is often limited. Like other flexible electronics, a flexible waveguide material lets the connections be folded and wrapped around to fit the form factor. It also makes cutting and drilling the material possible without chipping it.
The Dow/IBM silicone material has losses as low as 0.03 dB/cm, which could enable links of greater than 1m. That means a link of this material could not only connect chips on the same board, but also connect two chips on different daughter cards across a backplane. It proved to be stable for more than 2,000 hours exposed to the standard test of 85C operating temperatures and 85 percent humidity, as well as during lead-free solder reflow tests of 260C.
Although the engineers now are designing boards for supercomputers and high-speed networking equipment, the same issues will eventually, and inevitably, migrate down to PCs. Polymer optical waveguides may be first placed outside the rigid PC board. But once they're accepted as a reliable technology in the field, the ultimate vision is integrating them within the rigid board, said Jones.
"Because of very high connection density and the ability to fabricate in-plane crossovers with optical waveguides, not possible with copper, you can replace several copper layers with one optical layer while increasing the performance of the system and adding value to the PC board," said Jones. "If you could replace six layers of a 16-layer board with one optical layer, the copper element of the board could come down in cost by a factor of four or five."
Games may be a large market for high-performance computing, and thus of this technology. But I think what keeps getting lost in this discussion is that high-performance computing will not remain the only stratum where this technology is needed/useful. That's why I said "Remember Ethernet?" to remind us of how those speeds have continued to increase while the need for them has migrated down the performance spectrum. Faster data transfer is and will be needed everywhere, including personal computing devices.
OK, Ann. It still seems that the largest market for high performance computing is in the games area. Of course I realize that the level of power for games is less than that of the high level scientific computers, but thye sales ratio is quite large.
But your comment about servers does indeed point to an area that I had not considered. So now for a question about the "wide" optical interconnect: would it be point to point, or would it be more like a bus? Point to point between adjacent boards could still be done by some other means, while a bus with multiple sources and multiple listners would be an entirely different realm. Very demanding of precise construction and alignment, and probably susceptible to the same problems that lead to hard drives now using the sata interconnect format.
How right you are about the uses of the term "application." And slang, too, although it's fun, often is confusing. However, I was not using "application" to mean a program, or class of programs, but a class of uses--for instance if I write "aerospace applications," this does not mean aerospace software, but various uses in the aerospace industry.
Ann, sorry if I caused confusion by using the word "application". My usage relates to what the word was taken to mean in the past, instead of a corrupted abbreviation for the phrase "application program." Lazy-mouthed slang terms seldom are able to convey a specific meaning accurately, it seems.
I am aware that language does indeed change with usage, but hearing a slang term used to reference somethoing that many people really don't have any understanding of what they are talking about does become rather boring. At least I find repetition without understanding to be boring.
William, I'm not sure where computer gaming as an app for this technology comes from. The "apps" are more in classes of hardware--supercomputers, routers/switches, PCs--than in uses of the hardware. If you mean the technology may eventually come to gaming platforms, I agree--but then, it will also come to PCs and other consumer computing devices. And of course, price/performance tradeoffs will be one determining factor. But, in comms and connectors, that's not enough: market saturation will rule the day.
Ann, you may be correct about data centerapplications, but i suspect that the market for computer gaming toys is much larger. Of course, it will all get down to the ratio of cost-to benefits, won't it?
William, the article mentions supercomputing and datacenters, not computer gaming, for right-now apps. As a long-time student of comms technologies, I know that what starts at the high end--such as those two apps--ends up in the PC, at least as far as data transfer speeds are concerned. Remember when 100 MBps was fast? In the datacenter?
I am a bit familiar with radio frequency waveguides, but not optical ones, other than fiber optics. So thanks for the links.
But it still seems that there are very few applications that would benefit from the very high speed multiple line connections, since it appears that the concept is for these links to carry at least 8-bits wide, and probably 32 0r 64-bit wide data. For single-line interconnections they would probably not be cost effective.
My guess is that the main application would be in medical image processing, which is a growing but rather narrow field. If there are others it would be interesting to hear about them. But computer gaming does not count as a valid application, at least in my book.
William, sounds like you're unclear on the waveguide concept. I suggest you read up on them, and specifically on this board-level one. Wikipedia has a good article on the general subject. The "suitable problem" already exists and the R&D has been going on for some time to implement these at the board level. There's also a fair amount of detail in the links we gave in this article.
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