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'Opto-chip' could revolutionise telecommunications

A revolution in telecommunications is promised by researchers working with the opto-chip

An "opto-chip" could revolutionise Internet surfing by dramatically speeding up rates of data transfer across networks, US scientists said Thursday.

Researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of Washington claim to have created new technology which has the potential to revolutionise the way data is transferred around the world.

These so-called optical chips are in fact polymeric electro-optic modulators designed to act as a bridge between fibre optic cables and existing electronic devices.

Telecommunications companies already use fibre optics to send information around the world but transferring this information to electronic equipment has always been a bottleneck in transfer speeds. While networking companies have been pushing the levels of data that can be sent over fibre optic cables, this switching problem has prevented them from having a tangible impact.

Modulators act like translators, encoding electrical signals onto optical beams that can carry the information. Modulators built using polymeric electro-optic materials are said to achieve information processing speeds superior to existing technology. Tests indicate that a single opto-chip modulator can provide more than 300GHz of bandwidth and operate 10 times faster than current technology. These modulators are also said to require dramatically less voltage to power.

Larry Dalton, a chemistry professor at both Universities and the leader of this research project heralds this as a breakthrough of seismic importance for many kinds of technology, but predicts that the Internet could be shaken up the most. He says in a release concerning the research, "These electro-optic modulators will permit real-time communication. You won't have to wait for your computer to download even the largest files."

"It's a critical decision-determining technology because bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth -- like location, location, location in real estate -- is critical in making decisions in communications technology," adds Dalton. "This technology has bandwidth to burn."

Dalton and fellow researchers believe there work could be used in a broad range of hardware technology including telephone, television and radar.

Dalton even predicts that this could result in immaculate holographic images similar to those on the Star-Trek.

Reuters contributed to this story

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