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Engineers have demonstrated the first ever processor that uses light for ultrafast communications. They've successfully married electrons and photons within a single-chip microprocessor, which could be huge for future technologies.

In this latest effort, the researchers packed two processor cores with more than 70 million transistors and 850 photonic components onto a 3-by-6 millimeter chip. The scientists then fabricated the microprocessor in a foundry that mass-produces high-performance computer chips, proving that their design can be easily and quickly scaled up for commercial production.

The new chip marks the next step in the evolution of fiber optic communication technology by integrating into a microprocessor the photonic interconnects, or inputs and outputs (I/O), needed to talk to other chips.

"This is a milestone," said Vladimir Stojanovic, one of the researchers, in a news release. "It's the first processor that can use light to communicate with the external world. No other processor has the photonic I/O in the chip."

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