World’s fastest internet speed from a single optical chip

It is capable of downloading 1000 high definition movies in a split second.


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In a new study, scientists used a significant class of micro-comb called soliton crystals. They achieved ultra-high data transmission over 75 km of standard optical fiber using a single integrated chip source. Scientists accomplished a data speed of 44.2 Terabits per second (Tbps) from a single light source.

The study’s outcomes are expected to fast-track the next 25 years of Australia’s telecommunications capacity. Also, there is a possibility that this home-grown technology to be rolled out across the world.

Scientists from Monash, Swinburne, and RMIT University have successfully tested and recorded Australia’s fastest internet data speed, and that of the world, from a single optical chip – capable of downloading 1000 high-definition movies in a split second.

According to scientists, the technology could support the high-speed internet connections of 1.8 million households in Melbourne, Australia, at the same time and billions across the world during peak periods.

For this study, scientists made use of existing communications infrastructure where they were able to efficiently load-test the network. They used a new device that replaced 80 lasers with one single piece of equipment called a micro-comb. The micro-comb is smaller and lighter than existing telecommunications hardware. However, this is for the first time that scientists used micro-comb in field trials, and it possesses the highest amount of data produced from a single optical chip.

Dr. Bill Corcoran, co-lead author of the study and Lecturer in Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering at Monash University, said, “We’re currently getting a sneak-peak of how the infrastructure for the internet will hold up in two to three years, due to the unprecedented number of people using the internet for remote work, socializing and streaming. It’s showing us that we need to be able to scale the capacity of our internet connections.”

“What our research demonstrates is the ability for fibers 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 scalable to meet future needs.”

“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 kilometers away.”

To demonstrate the impact of optical micro-combs on optimizing communication systems, scientists installed 76.6km of ‘dark’ optical fibers between RMIT’s Melbourne City Campus and Monash University’s Clayton Campus. Australia’s Academic Research Network provided the optical fibers.

Within these fibers, researchers placed the micro-comb – contributed by Swinburne University as part of a broad international collaboration – which acts like a rainbow of hundreds of high-quality infrared lasers from a single chip. Each ‘laser’ can be used as a separate communications channel.

Scientists were able to send maximum data down each channel, simulating peak internet usage across 4THz of bandwidth.

Distinguished Professor Mitchell said reaching the optimum data speed of 44.2 Tbps showed the potential of existing Australian infrastructure. The future ambition of 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 fiber links with minimal cost.”

“Initially, these would be attractive for ultra-high-speed communications between data centers. 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.”

Professor Moss, Director of the Optical Sciences Centre at Swinburne University, said: “In the ten years since I co-invented micro-comb chips, they have become an enormously important field of research.”

“It is fascinating to see their capability in ultra-high bandwidth fiber optic telecommunications coming to fruition. This work represents a world-record for bandwidth down a single optical fiber from a single chip source and represents an enormous breakthrough for part of the network, which does the heaviest lifting. Micro-combs offer enormous promise for us to meet the world’s insatiable demand for bandwidth.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Corcoran, B., Tan, M., Xu, X., Boes, A., Wu, J., Nguyen, T. G., Chu, S. T., Little, B. E., Morandotti, R., Mitchell, A., & Moss, D. J. (2020). Ultra-dense optical data transmission over standard fibre with a single chip source. Nature Communications, 11(1), 1-7. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-16265-x