As a part of European Horizon 2020 research projects, researchers at ETH Zurich have achieved to manufacture a completely new plasmonic chips, what scientists have been striving for more than twenty years. The chip enables fast electronic signals to be transformed directly into ultrafast light signals with practically zero loss of signal quality.
The invention represents a significant breakthrough for efficiency of optical communication infrastructures. The ones that use light to transfer data, such as fiber optic networks.
Meanwhile, fiber optic networks are already in use for digital telephony, high-speed internet, TV and network-based audio or video services. However, optical communication networks are likely to reach their limits by the end of this decade for rapid data transmission.
Data Transmission Rate predicted to spike to Terabit Range
This is to serve the growing demand for online services for audio or video streaming, storage, computation, advent of 5G networks and artificial intelligence. Today, optical networks attain data transmission rate in the range of gigabits per second. The limit of today’s optical networks is 100 gigabits per lane and wavelength. However, in the future, transmission rate will need to reach terabit range.
“To serve this rising demand, will call for new solutions,” stated Professor of Photonics and Communications at ETH. The key for this model shift lies to combine electronic and photonic elements on a single chip. Meanwhile, photonics studies optical technologies for transmission, processing, and storage of information.
This combination is precisely achieved by ETH researchers in collaboration with partners in Israel, the U.S., Germany, and Greece. The researchers have been able to put together light-based and electronic elements on the same chip for the first time. Such an achievement is a huge one in terms of technical perspective. This is because currently these elements have to be manufactured on separate chips, then connected with wires.