IBM, Dow Corning Team to Develop Board-Level Photonics Materials
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 7, 2013 — IBM and Dow Corning have developed a new type of polymer material capable of transmitting light instead of electrical signals at high speed within supercomputers and other data systems.
The researchers fabricated thin sheets into flexible optical waveguides that show no curling and can bend to a 1-mm radius. The silicone-based material is stable at extreme operating temperatures, including 85 percent humidity and 85 ºC, making it suitable for integration in established electrical printed circuit board technology.
At the Photonics West conference, Dow Corning and IBM scientists unveiled a major step in photonics: using a new type of polymer material to transmit light instead of electrical signals within supercomputers and data centers. This new material offers better physical properties, including robustness and flexibility, making it ideal for applications in Big Data and for developing future exascale computers, which can perform a billion computations per second. In this photo is a prototype waveguide made of the new material at the Binning and Roher Nanotechnology Center in Rueschlikon, Switzerland. Courtesy of IBM Research.
In a presentation at the Photonics West conference in San Francisco, Brandon Swatowski, an application engineer for Dow Corning Electronics Solutions, reported that fabrication of full waveguide builds can be completed in less than 45 min and enable a high degree of process flexibility. Silicone polymer material, which is dispensed as a liquid, processes more quickly than competitive waveguide materials such as glass and does not require a controlled atmosphere chamber.
The waveguide builds showed excellent adhesion to polyimide substrates, Swatowski said in his presentation. The talk also detailed how optical characterization of the new waveguides’ silicones showed losses as low as 0.03 dB/cm, with environmental stability extending past 2000 hours of exposure to high humidity and temperature, and good performance sustained over 500 thermal cycles between −40 and 120 ºC.
“Polymer waveguides provide an integrated means to route optical signals similar to how copper lines route electrical signals,” said Dr. Bert Jan Offrein, manager of the Photonics Research Group at IBM Research. “Our design is highly flexible, resistant to high temperatures and has strong adhesion properties.”
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