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IBM breaks optical data transfer record

IBM researchers have achieved a new record in data transfer rates, 300Gbps, using their new "Optochip" fibre optic chip.
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Written by Alex Serpo on

IBM researchers have achieved a new record in data transfer rates, 300Gbps, using their new "Optochip" fibre optic chip.

IBM also claims its new chips operate at one-tenth of the power used by current commercial optical chips.

IBM's research paper, which was presented at the Optical Fiber Communications Conference in San Diego last week said: "The achieved 300Gb/s aggregate bi-directional data rate is the highest ever reported for parallel optical modules."

The IBM researchers achieved the speed using new prototype optical receiver chips, called "Optochips". IBM said that the Optochips had the potential to meet the bandwidth requirements for peta-flop and exa-flop supercomputers, as well as being used in high-speed networks and even consumer electronics.

The researchers managed to increase the performance of their chips by utilising a shorter wavelength of light.

Previous IBM optical receiver chips used light with a 985nm wavelength which, according to IBM's paper, offered "unprecedented area efficiency", in terms of the number of optical receiver units per chip. However, the wavelength produced high data loss.

By moving to the short 850nm light wavelength, the researchers were able to achieve the record for data transfer. According to IBM, the Optochips transmit the 850nm light signals "using vertical-cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs), high-speed versions of the inexpensive devices found in many computer mice".

Each Optochip contains 24 VCSEL transmitters and receivers, each operating at 12.5Gbps -- giving a total speed of 300Gbps.

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