Communications equipment supplier Motorola Inc. unveiled breakthrough technology on Tuesday that blends the low-cost virtues of silicon computer chips with speed-of-light optics to create faster chips.
Motorola said its research arm has found a way to combine silicon, the basis of most computer chips, with gallium arsenide, a costlier chip-making material, to create a high-speed optical chip that is durable and cost-effective.
Silicon-only chips, used in computers and other electronic devices, tend to be durable and cheap, but electronic circuits tend to slow down any optical features that travel at the speed of light.
By contrast, gallium arsenide chips, which are used in DVD video players, communications equipment and lasers, are 40 times faster than silicon chips; but they are fragile and expensive. University research groups and semiconductor companies have been racing to develop gallium arsenide chips that are less costly to make.
“What we’ve fundamentally done is change the whole foundation of the high-tech industry,” Dennis Roberson, Motorola’s chief technology officer, told Reuters in an interview ahead of the announcement.