MIT has developed a modular optical chip in which individual
Hardware

MIT has developed a modular optical chip in which individual parts can be easily replaced

Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a modular computer chip whose components interact with each other via light pulses. This means that the electronics can easily be upgraded with new sensors or processors in the future without having to completely replace the chips.

    Image source: MIT

Image source: MIT

A modular chip can consist of numerous components, including processors, controllers, and sensors, which can be modified to meet the needs of a specific solution or replaced as technology evolves. According to study co-author Jihoon Kang, the research team calls the new solution a configurable LEGO-like AI chip because it has virtually unlimited scaling potential depending on how the layers are combined.

Perhaps most unusual is how the components interact with each other. While current modular electrical systems typically struggle to communicate quickly and easily, the MIT chip uses pulses of light to transmit information between each layer. Each layer of the chip is equipped with LED elements and a photodetector that matches the corresponding elements of the next layer. When one of the parts needs to come into contact with another, the LED pixels generate an encoded light signal that can be interpreted by the next layer’s photodetectors.

To demonstrate how it works, the team created a 4mm chip2composed of three layers of computation, each of which had an image sensor, an optical communication system, and an artificial chain of “synapses” capable of distinguishing between the letters M, I, or T.

To test, scientists showed the system images of any letters, and it turned out that less blurred images were recognized much better. To demonstrate modularity, scientists used a computational layer that can improve the quality of image recognition, after which the quality of work has increased significantly. This demonstrated the possibility of “stacking” an existing system, exchanging elements and adding new functions.

The team is looking at different ways to use the technology – it is expected that users will be able to create systems for their needs or swap out outdated devices for new ones.

About the author

Dylan Harris

Dylan Harris is fascinated by tests and reviews of computer hardware.

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