A team of researchers has made a huge breakthrough in data transmission via fiber optics: They have developed a chip that can transfer 1.84 petabits of data per second. To put it into perspective, the chip can transmit nearly twice the world’s internet traffic in a flash of a second.
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To achieve such a feat, Asbjørn Arvad Jørgensen at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in Copenhagen and his colleagues from Denmark, Sweden, and Japan used a photonic chip — a technology that allows optical components to be built onto computer chips — to divide a stream of data into thousands of separate channels, a press release explains.
By splitting a data stream into 37 sections, one for each core of a fiber optic cable, and then further splitting each of those streams into 223 channels, the team was able to remove a great deal of interference that slows down optical systems. In their experiment, they succeeded in transmitting 1.8 petabits of data per second over a 7.9-km-long (4.9-mile) optical fiber cable, according to the study published in the journal Nature Photonics.
“You could say the average internet traffic in the world is about a petabit per second. What we transmit is two times that,” Jørgensen told New Scientist. “It’s an incredibly large amount of data that we’re sending through, essentially, less than a square millimeter [of cable]. It just goes to show that we can go so much further than we are today with internet connections.”
In the past, researchers have managed data transfer rates of up to 10.66 petabits per second. However, this is achieved through bulky, inefficient, and impractical equipment. But this new and improved technology sets a record for transmission using a single computer chip as a light source.
With more research, it could enable the creation of simple, single chips that can send vastly more data than existing models. This could ultimately cut energy costs and increase bandwidth in data transmissions.
The chip isn’t yet complete, though. It still needs a single laser and devices to encode data into each of the output streams. Moreover, Jørgensen thinks that they can improve on the current setup and create an even smaller on-chip design about the size of a matchbox. The goal is to shrink the equipment down to the silicon level.
This new chip’s data transmission speed greatly exceeds the previous record of 1.02 petabits per second by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in Japan. A previous photonic chip design, similar to that in this new study, only managed 44 terabits per second.