Multi-channel, nonlinear-optical processing devices to reduce cost of high-speed internet connections

Multi-channel, nonlinear-optical processing devices to reduce cost of high-speed internet connections

InternetMulti-channel, nonlinear-optical processing devices to reduce cost of high-speed internet connections


Published 8 January 2018

Breakthrough research could lead to a dramatic reduction in the cost and energy consumption of high-speed internet connections. Nonlinear-optical effects, such as intensity-dependent refractive index, can be used to process data thousands of times faster than what can be achieved electronically. Such processing has, until now, worked only for one optical beam at a time because the nonlinear-optical effects also cause unwanted inter-beam interaction, or crosstalk, when multiple light beams are present.



Breakthrough research from the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Vermont could lead to a dramatic reduction in the cost and energy consumption of high-speed internet connections.


Nonlinear-optical effects, such as intensity-dependent refractive index, can be used to process data thousands of times faster than what can be achieved electronically. Such processing has, until now, worked only for one optical beam at a time because the nonlinear-optical effects also cause unwanted inter-beam interaction, or crosstalk, when multiple light beams are present.


An article published in Nature Communications, by the research group of Michael Vasilyev, an electrical engineering professor at UTA, in collaboration with Taras I. Lakoba, a mathematics professor at UVM, detailed an experimental demonstration of an optical medium in which multiple beams of light can autocorrect their own shapes without affecting one another.


UTA says that this work, funded by the National Science Foundation, enables simultaneous nonlinear-optical processing of multiple light beams by a single device without converting them to electrical form, opening the way for this technology to reach its full multi-Terabit per second potential, resulting in cheaper and more energy efficient high-speed internet communications.


Currently, to eliminate the noise accumulated during light propagation in optical communication links, telecom carriers must resort to frequent optoelectronic regeneration, where they convert optical signals to electrical via fast photodetectors, process them with silicon-based circuitry, and then convert the electrical signals back to optical, using lasers followed by electro-optic modulators. Since each optical fiber can carry over a hundred different signals at various wavelengths, known as wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM), such an optoelectronic regeneration needs to be done separately for each wavelength, making regenerators large, expensive and inefficient consumers of power.