Research team claims to have created a programmable optical chip

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Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Valencia have demonstrated a generic optical chip that can be programmed on demand and expect to be designing devices that include up to six functions by the end of 2016.

The team, led by Professor José Capmany at the UPV’s Institute of Telecommunications and Multimedia Applications, is in the process of defining a starter chip, manufactured using indium phosphide, that can be programmed to offer two functions: filter; and instant frequency measurement.

Prof Capmany said: “This the first step towards a complete overhaul of the telecommunications sector. The programmable optical chip, once available on the market, will trigger an exponential drop in chip manufacturing costs. In the not too distant future, we will have generic optical processors with a standard configuration and universal core which will be programmable on demand.”

According to the team, the programmable optical chip will bring efficiency gains and versatility. Prof Capmany continued: “Let’s imagine that I want to manufacture three types of circuits: one that takes a delay line; another to generate signals; and a third to filter. Until now, we needed three different types of chip; now, we can use the same hardware platform for all three functions.”