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Silicon Photonics: An Introduction

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The observation by Gordon Moore in 1965 (now universally referred to as Moore’s law) that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit would double every couple of years has become a beacon that continues to drive the electronics industry. Integrated circuits have grown exponentially from the 30-transistor devices of 1965 to today’s high-end microprocessors exceeding 500 million transistors integrated on a silicon chip the size of your fingernail. Moore’s law will continue, with over one billion transistors per chip expected by 2010. Decades of research and manufacturing investment to drive Moore’s law has resulted in significant performance gains while simultaneously bringing about significant cost reductions. As an example, in 1968 the cost of a transistor was around one dollar. By 1995, one dollar bought about 3000 transistors. Today, one dollar purchases about five million transistors.

The Internet explosion has changed how we go about our everyday lives. The thirst for information and the need to ‘always be connected’ is spawning a new era of communications. This new era will continue to spur the need for higher bandwidth technologies to keep pace with processor performance. Because of Moore’s law, computing today is limited less by the computer’s performance than by the rate at which data can travel between the processor and the outside world. Fiber-optic solutions are replacing copper-based solutions, which can no longer meet the bandwidth and distance requirements needed for worldwide data communications.
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