A breakthrough in optical chips could mean massive energy and cost savings in data centers.
In 1965, Gordon Moore noticed that computer chips were roughly doubling in power every year, following an exponential curve. The trend held with such reliability that the observation was codified into Moore’s law. “But the speed at which we take data in and out of chips has instead followed linear growth,” said Alexandra Wright-Gladstein, a 2015 graduate of MIT Sloan. This expanding gap between the speed of individual computer chips and the speed with which they can communicate creates a bottleneck. “Right now, processors in big data centers spend the majority of their time idling, simply waiting for data to come or go.”