Super fast internet speed from an optical chip

By Amy Sarcevic
Wednesday, 27 May, 2020

Super fast internet speed from an optical chip

A team of researchers from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities has recorded what they claim is the world’s fastest internet speed of 44.2 terabits per second from a single optical chip.

The speed — enough to download 1000 HD movies in a split second — is achieved using a micro-comb, an optical chip replacing 80 separate infrared lasers, capable of carrying communication signals.

The technology has the capacity to support the high-speed internet connections of 1.8 million households in Melbourne at the same time, and billions across the world during peak periods. It could also support the use of self-driving cars and future transportation, with further applications in medicine, education, finance and e-commerce.

Co-Lead Author and Lecturer in Electrical and Computer Systems at Monash Dr Bill Corcoran said the need for this technology was pressing and escalating — given the prevalence of remote work during COVID-19 and the growing demand for internet services generally.

“We’re currently getting a sneak peak of how the infrastructure for the internet will hold up in two to three years’ time, due to the unprecedented number of people using the internet for remote work, socialising and streaming. It’s really showing us that we need to be able to scale the capacity of our internet connections,” he said.

“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.”

The researchers say their project is the first to use a micro-comb in a field trial.

Demonstrations of this magnitude are usually reserved for a laboratory. But, for this study, researchers achieved these quick speeds using existing communications infrastructure. They were able to load-test the network using 76.6 km of dark optical fibres installed across Melbourne.

Looking to the future, co-author Distinguished Professor Arnan Mitchell of RMIT said the project aims to scale up the current transmitters from hundreds of gigabytes per second towards tens of terabytes per second. All of this 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 ultrahigh-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.”

Pictured: The micro-comb used in the trials.

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