Imec takes step toward low-power, all-optical switching for optical communications

Imec and its associated laboratory INTEC at the Ghent University have paved the way for optical packet switching with reduced overall power consumption in high-speed, high-data rate optical telecommunication systems, according to an imec representative.

JANUARY 25, 2010 -- Imec and its associated laboratory INTEC at the Ghent University have paved the way for optical packet switching with reduced overall power consumption in high-speed, high-data rate optical telecommunication systems, according to an Imec representative.

Fiber-optic communication systems have revolutionized the telecommunications industry; yet, the switching and routing of data at the network nodes has traditionally required data conversion from the optical to the electrical domains and electronic switches with microelectronic processors. Further, the power consumption of these optoelectronic switches increases dramatically as the amount of data grows.

Researchers from imec and Ghent University in Belgium have realized fast, small optical random access memories with record low power consumption, paving the way for switching in optical fiber networks or optical interconnect systems optically and reducing reliance on optoelectronic conversions.

The optical random access memory has been achieved with ultra-compact, micro-disk lasers with a diameter of 7.5µm. The laser light can propagate in the clockwise or counter-clockwise direction and one can switch between these two laser modes using short optical pulses.

The lasers, implemented in Indium Phosphide membranes, are heterogeneously integrated onto passive silicon waveguide circuits, enabling the optical interconnection of different memory cells using silicon wires and the use of silicon-based microelectronics fabrication technology.

These results were achieved in collaboration with TU Eindhoven and INL (Institute for Nanotechnology in Lyon) in the framework of the European FP7 projects HISTORIC and WADIMOS coordinated by imec- INTEC.

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