American scientists have invented a prototype optical chipset with data transfer speeds of up to one Terabit per second (1Tbit/s).
The US-based IBM scientists disclosed information on their research re the chipset dubbed as the “Holey Optochip”, which now is the first parallel optical transceiver to cross the one trillion bits per second mark of information transfer equivalent to 500 HD movies.
Talking to audiences at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference in Los Angeles on Thursday, the researchers claimed that the chipset is eight times faster than other parallel optical components in the market today.
According to their estimates, a single optical transceiver can reach a raw speed equivalent to the bandwidth used up by 100,000 users of today’s standard 10 Megabit per second (Mb/s) broadband Internet access speed.
In real world applications, the online archive of the US Library of Congress – the world’s largest repository of published/unpublished materials – will only take roughly one hour to transfer over the prototype transceiver.
“Reaching the one trillion bit per second mark with the Holey Optochip marks IBM’s latest milestone to develop chip-scale transceivers that can handle the volume of traffic in the era of big data,” said IBM Researcher Clint Schow, part of the team that built the prototype.
“We have been actively pursuing higher levels of integration, power efficiency and performance for all the optical components through packaging and circuit innovations. We aim to improve on the technology for commercialization in the next decade with the collaboration of manufacturing partners,” he added.
Based on their investigation, the scientists found that optical networking furnishes the possibility of significantly improving data transfer rates by accelerating the influx of data through light pulses, rather than transmitting electrons over conventional wires.
“By demonstrating unparalleled levels of performance, the Holey Optochip illustrates that high-speed, low-power interconnects are feasible in the near term and optical is the only transmission medium that can stay ahead of the accelerating global demand for broadband,” the researchers said.
Technically, one 90nm IBM CMOS transceiver IC composed of 24 receiver and 24 transmitter circuits transforms into a Holey Optochip with the assembly of 48 “optical vias” or through-silicon holes – one for each transmitter and receiver channel.
Holey Optochips fill one wafer via post-processing on finished CMOS wafers, with all devices and standard wiring levels intact.
The prototype transceiver chip measures only 5.2 x 5.8mm, with a 24-channel, industry-standard 850nm VCSEL (vertical cavity surface emitting laser) and photodiode arrays directly flip-chip soldered to the Optochip.
Direct packaging gives rise to superior chip-scale optical engines, as Holey Optochips are for direct coupling to a standard 48-channel multimode fiber array through a microlens optical system fabricated with established high-volume packaging tools.
“The future of computing will rely heavily on optical chip technology to facilitate the growth of big data and cloud computing and the drive for next-generation data center applications,” the team added.