Researchers in Europe have developed an efficient way to deliver internet speeds at over 1 million gigabits per second through a single chip and laser system. 

The experiment achieved a speed of 1.8 petabits per second, or nearly twice the amount of internet traffic the world transmits at the same rate. Amazingly, the feat was pulled off using only a single optical light source. 

The research comes from a team at Technical University of Denmark and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. Last week, the group published a peer-reviewed paper(Opens in a new window) in Nature Photonics about the technology. 

The team’s experiment involved using a single chip to create what’s called a “frequency comb,” which involves splitting a single light source into hundreds of different colors, each acting as their own frequency. 

frequency comb

(Credit: Nature Photonics)

“Each color (or frequency) can then be isolated and used to imprint data. The frequencies can then be reassembled and sent over an optical fiber, thus transmitting data,” the Technical University of Denmark said in the announcement(Opens in a new window)

New Scientist reports(Opens in a new window) that researchers have also been able to achieve data speeds at 10.66 petabits per second, but this involved using bulky equipment. The team at Technical University of Denmark, on the other hand, reached the petabit internet speeds without relying on 1,000 lasers, thus saving on power costs. Their system can also potentially be miniaturized into a unit the size of a matchbox.

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“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,” added Victor Torres Company, head of the research team. Hence, the technology may hold promise to entering into commercial applications one day.

It’s also possible the speeds could reach far higher once the chip is further optimized. “Our calculations show that—with the single chip made by Chalmers University of Technology, and a single laser—we will be able to transmit up to 100 Pbit/s. The reason for this is that our solution is scalable,” said Leif Katsuo Oxenløwe, another researcher on the team.

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