Researchers have developed the next generation of ultrafast data transmission, which could enable already high-performance computing to be provided “on demand.” The technology uses a hybrid silicon-vanadium dioxide waveguide that can turn light on and off in less than one trillionth of a second to unjam bottlenecks in data streams.
The researchers show that data transmission rates exceeding one terabit per second may be possible on a single channel. To extend the capabilities of silicon photonics, they created a hybrid silicon chip with a small amount of vanadium dioxide—an ultrafast switching phase change material.
When another light pulse struck the vanadium dioxide, light pulses injected into a silicon waveguide were selectively turned off. The remarkable speed with which the light pulses were turned off and turned back on is due to the vanadium dioxide material properties and the time duration in which the two laser pulses interact in the vanadium dioxide.
Silicon photonics transfers large amounts of data as information bits using light pulses rather than electrical current pulses (0s and 1s). Data can be encoded as light pulses that travel through an optical fiber. Photodetectors convert the light pulse back into an electronic data signal when it arrives at its destination. Since the late 1980s, when research in silicon photonics began, this approach has significantly improved computer processing speed and computing power. With nearly every aspect of daily life now having an online or digital component, commercial and industrial technology firms are keen to improve optical computing technology.
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