IBM's new prototype 48-way optical databus takes up just 3 mm of width on a PCB, and is capable of a truly ridiculous data rate of around 8 Tbps. That's roughly 5,000 high-definition video streams per second, even if better has been done on fibre. Even better, this "green optical link" is a hundred times more power efficient than conventional electronic connections, so the environment benefits too.
Who needs a databus with such a high data rate? For the time being, probably only petaflop supercomputer designers needing to route vast numbers of bits very quickly between parallel processors and memory banks. Before too long though, the size and weight savings offered by that lower power consumption could mean you'd see scaled-down versions of the technology in your laptop or even your phone.
The cleverest bit is that the guys at IBM made these new "optocard" circuits by using commercially available parts and standard techniques like surface-mount soldering. This means the innovations may make it into real products much sooner than if they'd used custom technology.
It's apparently "the world's fastest and most highly integrated optical databus to date," and all that amazing speed is powered by little laser beams, guys... frickin' laser beams. And that's just cool. [Physorg]