Scientists ramping up net speeds to 40 Tb/s

2 mins read

An industrial research collaboration between scientists and engineers from Ireland, the Netherlands, and Germany have found a way to pack more data into existing internet cables to ramp up speeds to 40 Tb per second.

In a bid to free up and manage internet traffic this collaboration between the start-up company Pilot Photonics and the European photonics innovation incubator ACTPHAST 4.0, is developing a new way of splitting up light channels to deliver more information inside and between data centres.

Instead of using a single channel, the team are using multiple wavelengths to deliver information – all on a single Photonic Integrated Circuit (PIC). Unlike integrated circuits (ICs), or microchips, PICs use photonics or light-based technology and can deliver much higher bandwidth in a power-efficient manner.

Working wuth ACTPHAST 4.0, Pilot Photonics is focusing on developing the next generation solution of its core optical comb technology as a single integrated chip targeting mass-market adoption.

Using optical combs – a single laser that generates a broad spectrum of equally-spaced optical frequencies, resembling the teeth in a hair comb – rather than independent lasers, this ACTPHAST 4.0 innovation project will enable higher capacity internet traffic on a single fibre without having to upgrade existing infrastructure. It does this by eliminating “guard-bands” – or wasted chunks of bandwidth needed in traditional systems that prevent interference between data channels.

Frank Smyth, CTO and Founder of Pilot Photonics, explained, “A way to visualise how our photonic integrated circuits are helping the flow of information between datacentres is to think of a road. On the road, the lanes must be much wider than the cars because the driver can veer left and right to some degree. This extra lane space represents the guard bands between wavelengths that are used in optical systems today.

"Rather than growing data rates on a single wavelength, our technology allows us to use multiple wavelengths at a lower speed, thus removing integrity pressure on a single band. These multiple wavelengths create a single channel known as a “superchannel", enabling longer distances to be travelled by the data and making it easier to maintain good signal integrity."

The team at Pilot Photonics have developed a patented solution using a highly specialised platform technology called monolithic Indium Phosphide photonic integrated circuits.

“We are working at the highest end of communication networks from a performance perspective, and with our Indium phosphide PICs, everything can be integrated, including the comb laser, amplifiers, complex modulators, and coherent receivers. All of the optical functions can be placed on a single photonic chip," added Smyth.

According to Smyth monolithic Indium phosphide PICs allow total integration onto a single substrate, improving the performance of optical transceivers: “We need high capacity links to transfer more information than ever before between datacentres and for the long-haul transmission of data between cities, countries and continents. At Pilot Photonics, using a comb laser, we can combine 4, 8 or 16 transceivers onto a single chip bringing down power consumption, cost and size.”