New chip transmits data quickly with light

Researchers from Switzerland introduced a monolithic chip that quickly transmits data using light. It will increase the speed of data in fiber-optic networks.

Researchers from the Higher Technical School of Zurich (Switzerland) presented a chip in which electronic signals are converted into ultra-fast light signals without loss of quality. This discovery could be a major breakthrough that will increase the efficiency of optical communications infrastructures that use light to transmit data – for example, fiber optic networks. The new chip can improve data transfer over the Internet.

“Now electronic signals are converted into light signals using separate chips – this is how we lose a significant amount of signal quality. This is what limits the speed of data transmission with the help of light. Therefore, we started with the development of a modulator – a component on a chip that generates light of a given intensity, converting electrical signals into light waves. The modulator size is very small in order to avoid loss of quality and intensity during the conversion process”, the scientists explained.

Due to the fact that these chips are very compact, researchers can produce small monolithic circuits that include both a photonic and an electronic layer. In order to convert electrical signals to even faster optical ones, the photonic layer contains a plasma intensity modulator. It is based on metal structures that direct light to achieve high data rates.

In the chip, four input signals with lower speeds are combined and amplified, forming a high-speed electrical signal. In preliminary tests, scientists were able to transfer data for the first time at a speed of 100 gigabits per second using a monolithic chip.