Monash, Swinburne, and RMIT universities use optical chip to achieve 44Tbps data speed

Claimed as the fastest internet speed that has been tested and recorded in the world.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor
Image: Monash University

A group of researchers from Monash, Swinburne, and RMIT universities have claimed that they have successfully tested and recorded the world's fastest internet data speed of 44.2Tbps using a single optical chip known as a micro-comb.

The findings, published in the Nature Communications journal, revealed how the data speed achieved has the capacity to support high-speed internet connections of 1.8 million households in Melbourne, and users can download 1,000 HD movies in seconds.

According to the researchers, the micro-comb, which is touted to be a smaller and lighter device than existing telecommunications hardware, was used to replace 80 infrared lasers and load-tested in infrastructure that mirrored networks used by the National Broadband Network.

They did this by placing the micro-comb in 76.6km of installed dark optical fibres between RMIT's Melbourne city campus and Monash University's Clayton campus. The micro-comb was used to mimic a rainbow of infrared lasers so that each 'laser' has the capacity to be used as a separate communications channel.

To simulate peak internet usage during testing, the researchers sent maximum data through each channel across 4THz of bandwidth.

"What our research demonstrates is the ability for fibres that we already have in the ground, thanks to the NBN project, to be the backbone of communications networks now and in the future. We've developed something that is scalable to meet future needs," said Bill Corcoran, co-lead author of the study and lecturer in electrical and computer systems engineering at Monash University.

"And it's not just Netflix we're talking about here -- it's the broader scale of what we use our communication networks for. This data can be used for self-driving cars and future transportation and it can help the medicine, education, finance and e-commerce industries, as well as enable us to read with our grandchildren from kilometres away."

RMIT's Arnan Mitchell said the future ambition for the project is to scale up the current transmitters from hundreds of gigabytes per second towards tens of terabytes per second without increasing size, weight, or cost.

"Long-term, we hope to create integrated photonic chips that could enable this sort of data rate to be achieved across existing optical fibre links with minimal cost," he said.

"Initially, these would be attractive for ultra-high speed communications between data centres. However, we could imagine this technology becoming sufficiently low cost and compact that it could be deployed for commercial use by the general public in cities across the world."


A sample of some of the perovskite cells used in the experiment. 

Image: UNSW

Elsewhere, scientists from the University of Sydney have tested how to improve the thermal stability of perovskite solar cells so that it could potentially be used as an alternate to silicon-based solar cells.

"Perovskites are a really promising prospect for solar energy systems," said Anita Ho-Baillie, the John Hooke chair of nanoscience at the University of Sydney. "They are very inexpensive, 500 times thinner than silicon, and are therefore flexible and ultra-lightweight. They also have tremendous energy enabling properties and high solar conversion rates."

The scientists used a polymer-glass blanket with a pressure-tight seal to suppress the decomposition of the perovskite cells, a process known as outgassing.

"Understanding this process, called 'outgassing', is a central part of our work to develop this technology and to improve its durability," Ho-Baillie said.

"I have always been interested in exploring how perovskite solar cells could be incorporated into thermal insulated windows, such as vacuum glazing. So, we need to know the outgassing properties of these materials."

The test was also able to determine if the perovskite solar cells could survive more than 1,800 hours of 85% relative humidity and 75 cycles of temperatures between -40 degrees and 85 degrees. 

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