Researchers from the universities of Monash, Swinburne and RMIT in Australia have successfully developed and tested an Internet connection based on a single optical chip that achieved a blistering fast transfer speed of 44.2 terabits per second (Tbps).
What’s interesting about the research is that it was achieved over 75km of standard optical fiber using a single integrated chip source, meaning it has the potential to one day benefit existing fiber infrastructure.
The test fiber connection ran between RMIT’s Melbourne City campus and Monash University’s Clayton campus, and the researchers say it mirrors infrastructure used by Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN). The findings represent a “world-record for bandwidth,” according to Swinburne University Professor David Moss, one of the team members responsible.
“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 that is scalable to meet future needs,” said co-lead author of the study and Monash University lecturer Bill Corcoran.
Those speeds were achieved, thanks to a piece of technology called a micro-comb, which offers a more efficient and compact way to transmit data. This micro-comb was placed within the cable’s fibers in what the researchers say is the first time the technology has been used in a field trial.
Now, the researchers say the challenge is to turn the technology into something that can be used with existing infrastructure. “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,” RMIT’s Professor Arnan Mitchell says.
It’s unlikely that you’re going to be downloading games or streaming movies over a 44.2 Tbps connection anytime soon, however. If the technology ends up becoming commercialized, the researchers say that it’s likely to first be used to connect data centers.
Professor David Moss, director of the optical sciences center at Swinburne University, said that in the 10 years since he co-invented micro-comb chips, they have become an enormously important field of research, adding that “micro-combs offer enormous promise for us to meet the world’s insatiable demand for bandwidth.”
Full details of the research can be found in the latest issue of Nature Communications.