Intel Unveils Groundbreaking Optical I/O Chiplet at OFC 2024

Intel Unveils Groundbreaking Optical I/O Chiplet at OFC 2024

Lucía Fernández
2 min read

Intel Unveils Breakthrough in Optical I/O Chip Technology

Intel has achieved a remarkable feat at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference (OFC) 2024 by unveiling the first fully integrated bidirectional optical I/O chiplet. This groundbreaking development is poised to revolutionize data transmission, as the new optical compute interconnect (OCI) supports an impressive 64 channels of 32Gbps data transmission in both directions, covering distances of up to 100 meters through fiber optics.

This advancement is pivotal in addressing the surging demand for AI infrastructure. With AI applications such as large language models and generative AI consuming bandwidth at an unprecedented rate, the traditional electrical I/O faces limitations over short distances. Intel's OCI, however, promises to extend these boundaries, offering extended reach and reduced power consumption, which are essential for scaling up AI and machine learning setups.

The OCI chiplet is a sophisticated amalgamation that integrates a silicon photonics integrated circuit with on-chip lasers and optical amplifiers, coordinated with an electrical IC. Capable of facilitating a robust 4Tbps bidirectional data transfer and compatible with PCIe Gen5, it remarkably consumes just 5 pico-Joules per bit, a significant reduction from the standard 15 pJ/bit of pluggable optical transceiver modules.

Key Takeaways

  • Intel introduces first fully integrated bidirectional optical I/O chiplet.
  • Supports 64 channels of 32Gbps data transmission over 100 meters of fiber.
  • Addresses AI demand for higher bandwidth, lower power, and longer reach.
  • OCI chiplet integrates silicon photonics with on-chip lasers and optical amplifiers.
  • Intel working with select customers to co-package OCI with SoCs and SiPs.


Intel's new optical I/O chiplet, enhancing AI infrastructure with high-speed, low-power data transmission, impacts tech giants and startups in AI and data centers. Short-term, it boosts Intel's market position and customer collaborations. Long-term, it drives AI scalability, influencing global tech standards and possibly reshaping supply chains. This innovation, driven by AI's bandwidth demands, could catalyze a shift towards more sustainable data transmission technologies.

Did You Know?

  • Silicon Photonics: Silicon photonics refers to the integration of photonic devices into silicon-based microelectronic circuits. It involves using light (photons) to transmit data at high speeds and over long distances, which is particularly beneficial for applications like data centers and telecommunications. This technology leverages the CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) fabrication process, making it cost-effective and scalable.
  • Co-packaged Optics: Co-packaged optics is a technology where optical components are placed in close proximity to or directly on the silicon chip, rather than being housed in separate modules. This approach reduces the distance light needs to travel, thereby lowering power consumption and latency. It also simplifies the integration of optical and electronic components, enhancing system performance and efficiency.
  • Pico-Joules per Bit (pJ/bit): Pico-Joules per bit is a measure of energy efficiency in data transmission systems. It indicates the amount of energy consumed to transmit one bit of data. Lower pJ/bit values signify more energy-efficient systems, which are crucial for reducing power consumption in data centers and high-performance computing environments. Intel's achievement of 5 pJ/bit represents a significant improvement over standard modules, promising substantial energy savings and reduced operational costs.

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