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The progress of silicon electronic industry is based on scaling down the minimum feature size of integrated circuits. Speed, density and costs of devices improve with scaling, but unfortunately the performance of interconnect worsens, both in terms of speed and power consumption. This issue -- the ‘‘interconnect bottleneck’’ -- is envisioned as a critical showstopper of electronic industry in the near future. The physical reason behind the interconnect bottleneck is the resistive nature of metals. The introduction of copper in place of aluminum has temporarily improved the interconnect performance, but on the other hand in a few years a more disruptive solution will be required in order to keep the current pace of progress. Optical interconnect is an intriguing alternative to metallic wires, because light can travel in dielectrics, and even in vacuum. At present, optical technology in silicon is not mature for industrial implementation. For this very same reason, however, it is also rich of research opportunities with large potential payoff. The rationale of this chapter has been to trace a snapshot of the current interconnect limitations; to point out the basic differences between the electrical and optical interconnect from different perspectives, ranging from basic physics up to system layouts; and to give a flavor of suggested practical realization of optical solutions. Any of these goals would be too ambitious for a book chapter without a hopefully rich and up-to-date bibliography.
Keywords42.70.-a; 84.40.Ua; 85.60.-q; 42.82.-m; 85.85.+j
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