Skip to Content

Glowing Silicon

A chip that combines optics and electronics generates light 100 times more efficiently than previous devices.

Optical chips that transmit data on beams of light promise faster and more reliable computing, but they have not caught on widely because they must use expensive, exotic semiconductor materials to emit light: plain silicon won’t do the job. Now a research group led by physicist Salvatore Coffa at STMicroelectronics, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, has developed an all-silicon chip that combines both optics and electronics. Parts of the silicon are mixed with special rare-earth elements, which enables them to generate light about 100 times more efficiently than any previous silicon device, according to Coffa. The one-millimeter-square device uses light beams to talk to other chips. The STMicroelectronics chip’s first applications will be in telecommunications and biomedical devices, but it could eventually enable new processors for high-end computers and cheaper lasers and plasma displays. Potential customers will test the chip by the middle of 2004, says Coffa, and it could be incorporated into “billions of devices” by 2007.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting

With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.

VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.

This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine

Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.