A leader in AI chip production, TMSC is exploring silicon photonics to boost artificial intelligence applications in hopes of meeting the demanding computational needs of large language models.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), the world’s leading contract chipmaker, is making a strategic move into silicon photonics, a field that fuses silicon chips with optical technology. The aim is to supercharge artificial intelligence (AI) applications like ChatGPT and bolster the company’s growth.

TSMC is renowned for producing cutting-edge artificial intelligence chips, and Douglas Yu, Vice President of Pathfinding for System Integration, disclosed their ambition to elevate performance even further.

Yu explained that by developing an integrated silicon photonics system, TSMC could address two critical challenges for artificial intelligence: energy efficiency and computing power, adding that this venture could mark the dawn of a new era.

TSMC Artificial intelligence


The driving force behind TSMC’s push into silicon photonics is the enormous computing power required for large language models that underpin chatbots like ChatGPT.

Silicon photonics integrates optical elements, such as lasers, with silicon-based integrated circuits. This fusion allows for high-speed data transmission, longer transmission distances, lower power consumption (via light instead of electrical signals), and potentially reduced latency. The new technology is gaining significant attention across the semiconductor industry with tech giants envisioning its application in data centres, supercomputers, networking equipment, autonomous vehicles, and defence radar systems. Players like Intel, Cisco, IBM, Nvidia, and Huawei have been actively developing their own silicon photonics solutions.

TSMC, known for their advanced chip stacking and packaging technologies, aims to seamlessly combine and connect silicon photonics with various chip types through these techniques. 

Tien Wu, the CEO of ASE Technology Holding, the world’s leading chip packaging and testing service provider, stressed the importance of innovating packaging and integration techniques for silicon photonics to overcome bottlenecks in next-gen computing.

The global silicon photonics market is predicted to reach US$7.86 billion by 2030, with a projected compound annual growth rate of 25.7% from US$1.26 billion in 2022, according to industry association SEMI.

The company’s foray into silicon photonics underscores the industry’s recognition of its potential to revolutionise AI and high-performance computing.

Featured banner image credit: pr.tsmc.com


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