The chip reached breakneck speeds using a single laser and a specialized light-creating device to transmit data over fiber-optic cables, materials scientists said. The amount of data sent by researchers, about 1.84 petabytes, far exceeds the roughly 1 petabyte of data transmitted across the entire Internet every second. (A petabyte of data equals approximately one million gigabytes.)
If commercialized, experts say, the chip could deliver faster broadband connection speeds and computing power for consumers. Most notably, it would reduce the amount of energy needed to run the internet, which accounts for around 10% of global electricity consumption and is growing.
“The internet is a very, very energy-intensive consumer,” Leif Katsuo Oxenløwe, the study’s lead researcher, said in an interview. “We need to be able to support continued growth of the Internet, but we need to deliver new, energy-efficient technologies.”
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Scientists, telecommunications executives, and big tech companies are constantly calling for a faster, more efficient Internet. Many have tried to increase the amount of data that can be transferred. Others improve latency, which refers to the time it takes for data to respond to commands.
The chip being tested by Scandinavian researchers would dramatically increase the amount of data the internet could transfer, Oxenløwe and materials scientists said.
The chip works by using a single laser to create a rainbow of colors through a device called a “frequency comb”. These networks of light transport data via fiber optic cables in a faster and less energy-consuming way.
“It’s like you’re on the turnpike in New Jersey and all of these cars are linked together to move in unison,” said John Ballato, a professor of materials science at the University. of Clemson, who was not involved in the study.
During the experiment, Swedish and Danish researchers achieved super-fast data transfer speeds of 1.84 petabytes per second using the single laser-powered chip. Normally, more than 1,000 lasers would be needed to achieve this performance, the experts said.
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Ballato said the Scandinavian team’s speed results are exciting. “It’s not very often that something like this happens,” he said.
The advantage is the chip’s simple design, he said. Using this, along with specialized but not incredibly difficult to obtain fiber optic cable, allows businesses to use this method to transmit data in the future, he said. “It’s not a one-time thing,” he said. “It’s not a crazy Exotic that you think we’ll do once and never again.”
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He acknowledged, however, that the design is still in the research phase and could take years to become mainstream. It is unlikely, he added, that internet companies will rip up the fiber optic cables powering the internet that lie under the sea and replace them using this method.
It’s more likely, he said, that this technology will be used to deploy shorter-range local 5G networks that data-intensive advancements, such as self-driving vehicles, will need to rely on to perform better.
“Everyone is crying out for 5g,” he said. “It’s extraordinary [large amount] power and bandwidth, capacity-intensive proposition.
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