Scientists smashed the internet speed record with an optical chip

Scientists smashed the internet speed record with an optical chip

  • A new “frequency comb” optical chip design can transmit almost twice as much data as the entire Internet in a single second.
  • A frequency comb is a masterfully precise laser composed of many distinct frequencies, or color wavelengths.
  • The global Internet relies on fiber optic technology which must have massive data transmission capacity.

In new research, scientists have blown the roof off conventional telecommunications with a chip capable of sending nearly twice as much traffic as the entire internet in a single second, setting the transmission speed record for data. The researchers claim that a single light source and a single optical chip can work together to produce a “frequency comb” capable of blazing data transmission speeds. How does the same small collection of raw materials, namely silicon—what we already have in our personal computers and infrastructure – producing such high speeds?

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The new chip was made by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and Japanese company Fujikura Ltd. their paper appears in Nature Photonics.

“We experimentally demonstrate the transmission of 1.84 Pbit s-1on a 7.9 km long 37-core fiber using 223 wavelength channels derived from a single micro-comb ring resonator producing a stabilized dark-pulse Kerr frequency comb,” the authors write.

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Alright, there’s a lot to unpack here. The headline-grabbing stat here, though, is speed: 1.84 petabits, or, as New Atlas Explain, “almost twice the world’s Internet traffic per second”. Home Internet connections of 1 to 10 gigabits are at the cutting edge of consumer technology at the moment, and one petabit equals one million gigabits. The authors of the article claim that fiber optics – the glass-based cabling that carries the highest bandwidths of internet traffic – is key to global communication in the future, but our current technology will eventually reach its limits. .

Do you remember early telecommunications, like Morse code transmitted over telegraph lines? Everything that followed has the same basic fundamental mechanism: on and off, 0 and 1, space and non-space. The “optical” part of fiber optics is that it carries extremely fast flashes of light. And a frequency comb, one of the most advanced ways to send out the tiniest and most predictable flashes of light, is the best natural in its class.

What is a frequency comb? US Government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Explain as part of a recent own study which appears in the newspaper Nature: “[A] The frequency comb is a type of laser whose light consists of many well-defined frequencies that can be measured precisely. Looking at the laser spectrum on a screen, each frequency would stand out like a tooth of a comb, giving the technology its name.

Frequency combs are commonly used to measure time and distance accurately, and applications range from atomic clocks to telescopes.

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But the team led by the University of Copenhagen is harnessing this light in a new way, to transport an astonishing amount of data. The optical chip creates a frequency comb, splitting the laser into the full spectrum of light and producing “hundreds” of distinct frequencies or colors, according to a DTU press release. Researchers can then encode data on each of these distinct color wavelengths.

A single chip could replace 1,000 lasers currently used in fiber optics, making the whole system more energy efficient.

researchers have defined a new Internet data transmission speed with an optical frequency comb chip

A diagram of an optical frequency comb generated in a ring resonator.

Dodd-Walls Center for Photonic and Quantum Technologies, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The IT network infrastructure is branching out into smaller and smaller structures, which comes with a Disadvantage: Each “pipe size” downgrade comes with a different transfer point and material. All of this is to say that any great advancement in any specific part of computer technology should be taken with a similar large grain of salt. You can’t just drop a world record computer chip into our existing system. If you’ve ever tried to save an aging computer by installing new RAM or a new graphics card, for example, you may have learned a hard lesson about the holistic nature of computers.

The researchers also set this new data transmission speed record using ‘specialty cables’, which means their technology is far from infrastructure-ready – this is scientific research. , not a consumer show. But the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology recently broke the internet speed record for standard cables, meaning the technology would be easily compatible with existing infrastructure, unlike the frequency comb chip. .

But this record could still change the telecommunications landscape in the future. And the Copenhagen-based research team says it doesn’t even stop at 1.84 petabits per second. With the right configuration, they believe they can configure a single chip capable of transmitting 100 petabits per second. This is 100 times today’s global internet traffic per second. Get ready, because your nonstop Zoom meetings are about to go a whole lot easier.

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