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  • Moscone Center, San Francisco, California, USA

20 January 2023


Coherent optical link achieves 200 Gigabits per second single wavelength transmission

New link architecture uses photonic and electronic integrated circuits; could help internet data centers achieve higher data rates while consuming less power

SAN DIEGO - In an important step toward meeting the tremendous demands for more bandwidth, researchers report the first O-band optical link to accomplish more than 200 Gbps single wavelength transmission using an integrated transmitter and receiver based on photonic and electronic integrated circuits. The researchers designed the link using a new analog coherent detection architecture that consumes just 1.5 W of power.

Aaron Maharry, Ph.D. from the University of California in Santa Barbara (UCSB) will present the new findings at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference (OFC), which will take place 05 – 09 March 2023 in San Diego, California. The work builds upon the team’s previous demonstration of the first full O-band coherent link with integrated transmitters and receivers based on photonic and electronic integrated circuits.

“This is a major step towards next generation data center networks built on coherent optical links,” said Maharry. “This research is a product of the US Department of Energy ARPA-E ENLITENED program, which aims to double data center energy efficiency through advanced optical networking technologies. These links will enable data centers to economically scale network throughput with lower energy consumption, leading to a better, more sustainable, and cheaper internet.”

The optical links used in the data centers that form the backbone of the internet often rely on a communication approach known as intensity modulation direct detection (IMDD). Rising data rates have led to increasing interest in replacing IMDD links with more scalable coherent links. However, the high-power consumption and cost of coherent links have prevented their widespread adoption.

To overcome these limitations, researchers from UCSB and Intel Corporation designed an analog coherent detection link architecture that removes the power-hungry digital signal processing functions that are required for longer-reach conventional coherent links.

“We have reimagined how next-generation optical links should work for short reaches,” said Maharry. “Instead of relying on the same advanced techniques used in undersea cable transmission, we designed and built chips that are optimized for shorter links and can offload digital signal processing functions efficiently into the analog domain. We have been excited to collaborate with Intel for this work, as their proven silicon photonic process with integrated optical gain is the ideal technology to realize this new architecture.”

Using the new link architecture, the researchers demonstrated 224 Gbps/λ dual polarization quadrature phase shift keying (DP-QPSK) transmission with 6.8 pJ/bit power consumption and a data transmission accuracy above the necessary 99.62% threshold.

According to the authors, incorporating photonic integrated circuits with integrated optical gain could create a link with a power consumption of less than 10 pJ/bit. Future designs could also incorporate wavelength division multiplexing to create four or eight channels that would allow 800G or 1.6T transmission rates, respectively.

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About OFC

The 2023 Optical Fiber Communication Conference (OFC) is the premier conference and exhibition for optical communications and networking professionals. For more than 40 years, OFC has drawn attendees from all corners of the globe to meet and greet, teach and learn, make connections and move business forward. OFC includes dynamic business programming, an exhibition of global companies and high impact peer-reviewed research that, combined, showcase the trends and pulse of the entire optical networking and communications industry. OFC is managed by Optica (formerly OSA) and co-sponsored by IEEE Communications Society (IEEE/ComSoc), IEEE Photonics Society and Optica. OFC 2023, a hybrid conference, will take place 05 – 09 March 2023 in San Diego. Follow @OFCConference, learn more at OFC Community LinkedIn, and watch highlights on OFC YouTube.