IBM Corp. has announced that after years of research into nanophotonics, it has discovered a way to build optical circuits directly into CPUs.
Fibre-optic cables linking servers are already in widespread use in data centres, but processors themselves cannot understand optical information without first converting it into a flow of a electrons, as this ComputerWorld article notes. Right now, the technology to do so is very expensive.
The chips will be able to incorporate both optical circuits and electrical circuits in one place, leading to potential on-chip speeds of up to 25 Gbps. 
But IBM says the design of these experimental chips is such that they could be a mass-produced at a relatively low cost. This would be good news for data centres around the world that are coping with an every-widening flow of information. BBC News quoted Solomon Assefa, a nanophotonics expert at IBM Research, as saying that new innovations like this were essential to keep on top of the big data problem.

“It’s driven by applications and services that continue to grow, be it search, video content, cloud computing, social networks, business analytics – all these use huge amount of data,” he said.

“For our computer servers to keep up with this growth, so that we can actually make sense of the data through analytics and so forth, we need to have a new technology.”