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Optical interconnects in computing systems - from fiber to the server to fiber to the brain

Event Date: May 4, 2015
Speaker: Yurii Vlasov
Speaker Affiliation: IBM T.J.Watson Research Center
Time: 10:30am
Location: MSEE 239
Contact Name: Professor Andy Weiner
Contact Phone: 765-49-45574
Contact Email:


I will give an overview of the IBM Silicon Nanophotonics project that I led for over a decade from its early scientific exploration stage to technology transfer and qualification in IBM microelectronics foundry fab. The technology is aimed at low-power cost-efficient optical interconnects for internet mega- datacenters and high-performance computer systems. Such a disruptive technology is a result of a decade of multidisciplinary exploration in materials science, fundamental optics that extended further into advanced device and system engineering. I will touch upon its historical development, technology differentiators, current status and a roadmap.

I will also review a new area of neuro-engineering and neuro-photonics that I started to be engaged lately and discuss how engineering approaches in general and integrated optics in particular can be applied to the advancement in the brain science and to development of novel computing architectures.



Dr. Yurii Vlasov is a Principal Member of Research Staff and a Manager of the Department of Brain-Inspired Technologies at the IBM T.J.Watson Research Center. He has been recognized as the founder and long-term leader of the IBM Silicon Nanophotonics project. He led the project from its early fundamental research stage in 2001-2007 to advanced technology development in 2008-2010. In 2011- 2013 Dr. Vlasov led the company-wide effort on transitioning the IBM Silicon Nanophotonics technology to commercial manufacturing aimed at cost-optimized low-power optical transceivers for mega- datacenters and supercomputers.

With successful transition of Silicon Nanophotonics technology to IBM product division, Dr. Vlasov initiated a new exploratory project that is aimed at developing an alternative approaches to computing that mimic information processing in the mammalian brain. Dr. Vlasov spent the year of 2013- 2014 on an extended assignment at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, VA investigating the basic science of hierarchical sensory information processing in the neocortex in a rodent in-vivo model. In September 2014 he returned back to IBM Research with a mandate to provide a vision and leadership to this new program.

Dr. Vlasov is a Fellow of the OSA, the APS, and the IEEE. He has published over 300 peer- reviewed papers, filed over 100 patents, and delivered over 100 invited, plenary and tutorial talks. He was awarded the IBM Corporate Award, “Best of IBM” Award, as well as was named “Scientist of the Year” by the Scientific American journal.

Prior to IBM, Dr. Vlasov developed semiconductor nanophotonics at the NEC Research Institute in Princeton and at the Strasbourg IPCMS Institute in France. For over a decade, he was also a Research Scientist with the Ioffe Institute of Physics and Technology in St. Petersburg, Russia working on optics of nanostructured semiconductors. He received his MS from the University of St. Petersburg (1988) and PhD from the Ioffe Institute (1994), both in physics. Being an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University's Department of Electrical Engineering Dr. Vlasov taught courses on microelectronics and photonics.