VLSI technology has revolutionized the electronics industry and additionally, our daily lives demand solutions to increasingly sophisticated and complex problems, which requires more speed and better performance of computers.
For these reasons, it is unfortunate that VLSI technology is approaching its fundamental limits in the sub-micron miniaturization process. It is now possible to fit up to 300 million transistors on a single silicon chip. As per the Moore’¬s law it is also estimated that the number of transistor switches that can be put onto a chip doubles every 18 months. Further miniaturization of lithography introduces several problems such as dielectric breakdown, hot carriers, and short channel effects. All of these factors combine to seriously degrade device reliability. Even if developing technology succeeded in temporarily overcoming these physical problems, we will continue to face them as long as increasing demands for higher integration continues. Therefore, a dramatic solution to the problem is needed, and unless we gear our thoughts toward a totally different pathway, we will not be able to further improve our computer performance for the future.
Optical interconnections and optical integrated circuits will provide a way out of these limitations to computational speed and complexity inherent in conventional electronics. Optical computers will use photons traveling on optical fibers or thin films instead of electrons to perform the appropriate functions. In the optical computer of the future, electronic circuits and wires will be replaced by a few optical fibers and films, making the systems more efficient with no interference, more cost effective, lighter and more compact. Optical components would not need to have insulators as those needed between electronic components because they don’t experience cross talk. Indeed, multiple frequencies (or different colors) of light can travel through optical components without interfacing with each others, allowing photonic devices to process multiple streams of data simultaneously.