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In less than a second, a single laser and chip may transmit the whole internet

The lifeblood of humanity is the transmission of information, which we are able to do at ever-increasing speeds. The most recent record is so astoundingly quick that we need to compare it to the entirety of the internet in order to understand it. Researchers were able to transmit 1.8 petabits per second using a solitary laser and a solitary optical device. One petabit is equal to one million gigabits, and that much data is equivalent to transferring twice as much internet traffic as there is on the planet now.

The optical chip is alone responsible for this astounding accomplishment. As a “frequency comb,” it is intended to transform laser light into a spectrum of frequencies. Each of the frequencies can contain its own stream of data, which is then sent over fiber optics. The frequencies are all evenly spaced apart (like the teeth of a comb). Without it, it would require 1,000 lasers to transmit the same amount of data. It’s interesting that while it’s excellent at fiber-optic transmission, it wasn’t designed with that in mind.

According to Victor Torres Company, head of the research team that created the chip and professor at Chalmers University of Technology, “what is special about this chip is that it produces a frequency comb with ideal characteristics for fiber-optical communications — it has high optical power and covers a broad bandwidth within the spectral region that is interesting for advanced optical communications.”

In actuality, several of the distinguishing characteristics were attained through happenstance rather than design. However, thanks to the efforts of my team, we have been able to reverse engineer the procedure and produce microcombs with high consistency for our intended uses in telecommunications.

The scientists also modeled the device and showed that, in the future, it might be able to speed up the transmission by more than 50 times. The amount of energy required by telecommunication technology would be significantly reduced if it were possible to move such a large volume of information with just one laser.

To put it another way, our system offers the possibility of replacing hundreds of thousands of lasers that are found in Internet hubs and data centers and that all use energy and produce heat. We have a chance to help create a more environmentally friendly Internet, said Professor Leif Katsuo Oxenlwe of the Technical University of Denmark.

To increase efficiency and reduce energy consumption, the team, like others across the world, is attempting to merge the laser and other components within the chip itself.

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