Scientists from the Technical University of Denmark in Copenhagen have achieved 1.84 petabits per second data transfers using a single photonic chip connected via a single optical fiber cable. The feat was accomplished over a distance of 7.9 km (4.9 miles). For some perspective regarding this achievement, at any time of day, the average internet bandwidth being used by the whole world’s population is estimated to be about 1 petabit/s.
With the ever increasing amounts of data shifted across the internet for business, for pleasure, and software downloads or updates - infrastructure firms are always on the lookout for new ways to increase the available bandwidth. The 1.84 petabits/s over a standard optical cable using a compact single chip solution will therefore hold much appeal.
Photonic chip technology holds great promise for optical data transfer purposes – as the processor and the transfer medium both work with light waves. The New Scientist (opens in new tab) explains in simple terms how the Danish scientists, led by Asbjørn Arvad Jørgensen, managed to deliver such bandwidth with the resources at hand.
Firstly, the data stream used in the trial was split into 37 lines, with each one sent down a different optical thread in the cable. Each of the 37 data lines were split into 223 data chunks corresponding to zones of the optical spectrum. What this allowed is for creating a "frequency comb" where data was transmitted in different colors at the same time, without interfering with other streams. In other words a “massively parallel space-and-wavelength multiplexed data transmission” system was created. Of course, this splitting, and re-splitting massively increased the potential data throughput supported by a fiber optic cable.
It wasn’t easy to test and verify 1.84 petabits/s bandwidth – as no computer can send, or receive, never mind store, such a humungous amount of data. The research team used dummy data over individual channels to verify what would be the full-on bandwidth capacity. Each channel was tested individually to ensure data received matched what was transmitted.
In action, the photonic chip splits a single laser into many frequencies and some processing is required to encode light data for each of the 37 data optical fiber streams. A refined fully capable optical processing device should be possible to build at approximately the size of a match box, according to Jørgensen. This is a similar size to current single color laser transmission devices used by the telecoms industry.
Ut is reassuring that we will be able to keep the same fiber optical cable infrastructure, but replace matchbox-sized optical data encoders / decoders with the similar sized photonic chip powered devices, potentially delivering an effective 8,251x increase in data bandwidth. The researchers say there is enough potential shown in their work to inspire “a shift in the design of future communications systems.”
For further information about the record 1.84 petabits/s data transfers you can check out the Petabit-per-second data transmission using a chip-scale microcomb ring resonator source paper (opens in new tab).