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Accessing Internet at 640 Gb/s?

University of Sydney physicists have developed an optical chip that could potentially improve 'Internet speeds to up to 100 times faster than current Australia's networks.' According to the Sydney Morning Herald, these chalcogenide glass photonic chips will be very cheap to produce as they're based on plain glass. As said the lead researcher, 'we are talking about networks that are potentially up to 100 times faster without costing the consumer any more.' He adds that these chips could be scaled to operate at data rates approaching 640 Gb/s -- the equivalent to transmitting approximately 17 complete DVDs per second! These chips could be commercially available in 5 years with the possible first network deployments in Japan. But read more...
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Written by Roland Piquepaille, Inactive on

University of Sydney physicists have developed an optical chip that could potentially improve 'Internet speeds to up to 100 times faster than current Australia's networks.' According to the Sydney Morning Herald, these chalcogenide glass photonic chips will be very cheap to produce as they're based on plain glass. As said the lead researcher, 'we are talking about networks that are potentially up to 100 times faster without costing the consumer any more.' He adds that these chips could be scaled to operate at data rates approaching 640 Gb/s -- the equivalent to transmitting approximately 17 complete DVDs per second! These chips could be commercially available in 5 years with the possible first network deployments in Japan. But read more...

Chalcogenide glass photonic chip

You can see above CUDOS researcher Neil Baker holding a chalcogenide glass photonic chip which allows all-optical signal processing. Professor Ben Eggleton appears in the background with two other researchers. (Credit: CUDOS)

This research project has been led for 4 years by Professor Ben Eggleton, Director of the Centre for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) at the University of Sydney. Please look at the research section about Photonic crystals for more details. Before going further, here is what this document says about chalcogenide glass photonic crystals. "Chalcogenide glasses combine a large optical nonlinearity with strong photosensitivity, making them ideal for studying nonlinear photonic effects. Chalcogenide glass photonic crystals are fabricated at the ANU by milling holes in chalcogenide glass films using a focused ion beam. We characterise these structures by measuring transmission and reflection versus incident angle and wavelength."

Now, here is a quote from the Sydney Morning Herald article. "The device, a photonic integrated circuit, could overcome the gridlock that occurs when information travelling along optical fibres at the speed of light has to be processed by slow, old-fashioned electronic components. This would make almost instantaneous, error-free and unlimited access to the internet possible anywhere in the world, Professor Eggleton said. The market would ultimately decide which technologies were introduced to meet the skyrocketing demand for faster and cheaper downloads. 'But our job at CUDOS is to go out to the absolute limit, and demonstrate in the lab what is possible,' he said."

In "Breaking the Internet's glass ceiling," a University of Sydney news release (July 9, 2008), you'll find additional details. "'This is a critical building block and a fundamental advance on what is already out there. We are talking about networks that are potentially up to 100 times faster without costing the consumer any more,' says Federation Fellow Professor Ben Eggleton, Director of CUDOS, based within the School of Physics at the University of Sydney. Eggleton, whose team beat their deadline by a year, says that up until now information has been moving at a slow rate but optical fibres have a huge capacity to deliver more. 'The scratched glass we've developed is actually a Photonic Integrated Circuit,' he says."

This research work has been presented at the 13th Opto-Electronics and Communications Conference (OECC) held in Sydney, on July 7-10, 2008, under the title "Error-free 640Gb/s demultiplexing using a chalcogenide planar waveguidechip" (PDF format, 3 pages, 268 KB).

The team also published a highly technical article for Optics and Photonics News, "Chalcogenide Glass Photonic Chips, Signal processing for the next generation of the Internet (PDF format, 6 pages, 484 KB). The picture above comes from this document.

Here is a key part of the conclusion of the paper. "Chalcogenide glasses offer an interesting and exciting new platform for developing all-optical signal processing devices for the photonic equivalent of the electronic chip. These devices will be able to demultiplex high data rate signals, convert the carrier wavelength, and perform other functions, such as optical signal regeneration and packet buffering and switching. Further improvements in device performance are needed in order to achieve all-optical signal processing at data rates for future telecommunications applications (e.g., at 160 to 640 Gb/s)."

Finally, if you want to learn more about these photonic crystals, take a look at an Elsevier scientific publication, Photonics and Nanostructures - Fundamentals and Applications and read the abstract of a paper called "Chalcogenide glass photonic crystals" (Volume 6, Issue 1, April 2008, Pages 3-11). "All-optical switching devices are based on a material possessing a nonlinear optical response, enabling light to control light, and are enjoying renewed interest. Photonic crystals are a promising platform for realizing compact all-optical switches operating at very low power and integrated on an optical integrated circuit. In this review, we show that by making photonic crystals from a highly nonlinear chalcogenide glass, we have the potential to integrate a variety of active devices into a photonic chip." Interestingly, you cannot access the full paper for free from the abstract, but you can from the home page of the journal -- at least today.

Sources: Deborah Smith, The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, July 10, 2008; and various websites

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