More speed vicar? New chip design sees ultra-fast data transmission at a rate of 1.84 petabits per second…and more speed is possible
The speed record for data transmission has been shattered once again by researchers in Denmark and Sweden.
The researchers used a single light source and optical chip to transmit data at a whooping 1.84 petabits per second (Pbit/s), which is almost twice the global internet traffic per second.
Achieving 1.84 Pbit/s is quite remarkable. To understand how fast that is, most people’s homes in the UK can sometimes achieve speeds of up to 240 Mbps (megabits per second). A lucky few, for example those connected to the B4RN project or full fibre connections, can achieve speeds up to 1Gbps or sometimes even 10Gbps.
For context, 1 petabit corresponds to 1 million gigabits.
So who achieved this? Well it is perhaps no surprise that it was the researchers at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in Denmark, alongside researchers from Chalmers University of Technology (in Gothenburg, Sweden).
Last week they announced they had achieved the dizzying data transmission speeds.
They said they were the first in the world to transmit more than 1 petabit per second (Pbit/s) using only a single laser and a single optical chip.
In the experiment, the researchers succeeded in transmitting 1.8 Pbit/s, which corresponds to twice the total global Internet traffic.
And this was only carried by the light from one optical source. The light source is a custom-designed optical chip, which can use the light from a single infrared laser to create a rainbow spectrum of many colours, i.e. many frequencies, said the researchers.
Thus, the one frequency (colour) of a single laser can be multiplied into hundreds of frequencies (colours) in a single chip.
All the colours are fixed at a specific frequency distance from each other – just like the teeth on a comb – which is why it is called a frequency comb.
Each colour (or frequency) can then be isolated and used to imprint data. The frequencies can then be reassembled and sent over an optical fibre, thus transmitting data. Even a huge volume of data, as the researchers have discovered.
The researchers said that the experimental demonstration showed that a single chip could easily carry 1.8 Pbit/s, which – with contemporary state-of-the-art commercial equipment – would otherwise require more than 1,000 lasers.
“What is special about this chip is that it produces a frequency comb with ideal characteristics for fiber-optical communications – it has high optical power and covers a broad bandwidth within the spectral region that is interesting for advanced optical communications,” Victor Torres Company, a professor at Chalmers University of Technology, who is head of the research group that has developed and manufactured the chip.
More speed Vicar?
Interestingly enough, the chip was not optimised for this particular application, the researchers noted.
“In fact, some of the characteristic parameters were achieved by coincidence and not by design,” said Victor Torres Company. “However, with efforts in my team, we are now capable to reverse engineer the process and achieve with high reproducibility microcombs for target applications in telecommunications.”
The researchers created a computational model to examine theoretically the fundamental potential for data transmission with a single chip identical to the one used in the experiment.
The calculations showed enormous potential for scaling up the solution, the researchers said.
“Our calculations show that – with the single chip made by Chalmers University of Technology, and a single laser – we will be able to transmit up to 100 Pbit/s,” said Professor Leif Katsuo Oxenløwe, Head of the Centre of Excellence for Silicon Photonics for Optical Communications (SPOC) at DTU.
“The reason for this is that our solution is scalable – both in terms of creating many frequencies and in terms of splitting the frequency comb into many spatial copies and then optically amplifying them, and using them as parallel sources with which we can transmit data,” said Professor Oxenløwe.
“Although the comb copies must be amplified, we do not lose the qualities of the comb, which we utilize for spectrally efficient data transmission,” said Professor Oxenløwe.
This new record is a huge speed increase from previous records.
Remember, it was only back in 2012 that researchers in Germany said they had broken the data transmission speed record, when they sent data at 512Gbps from Berlin to Hanover and back.
However prior to that 26TBps was apparently set by a team at the Karlsruhe Institut fur Technologie in Germany in 2011.
Then in 2014 researchers at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) reclaimed their world record for data transfer with a single laser by setting a new benchmark of 43Tbps.
In July 2021 engineers from Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) set a world record when they demonstrated a long distance data transmission at speeds of 319Tbps over 3,001 km (1,864 miles).