Scaling Up Silicon Photonic-based Accelerators: Challenges and Opportunities, and Roadmapping with Silicon Photonics 2.0
Digital accelerators in the latest generation of CMOS processes support multiply and accumulate (MAC) operations at energy efficiencies spanning 10-to-100~fJ/Op. But the operating speed for such MAC operations are often limited to a few hundreds of MHz. Optical or optoelectronic MAC operations on today's SOI-based silicon photonic integrated circuit platforms can be realized at a speed of tens of GHz, leading to much lower latency and higher throughput. In this paper, we study the energy efficiency of integrated silicon photonic MAC circuits based on Mach-Zehnder modulators and microring resonators. We describe the bounds on energy efficiency and scaling limits for N x N optical networks with today's technology, based on the optical and electrical link budget. We also describe research directions that can overcome the current limitations. The next generation of silicon photonics, which we term Silicon Photonics 2.0, promises many exciting opportunities to enable the next frontier in optical computing and communication.