Project summary and objectives

The last two decades has seen an explosion in telecommunication bandwidth, a trend which has never ceased. Another current trend is the growing concern for the environmental footprint humankind is leaving due to various industries. The Internet traffic grows roughly by 60% per year, and internet servers today consume electric power corresponding to a CO2 emission of more than 2% of the total emission caused by human beings. These trends have made it very clear that it is imperative to develop new technologies that can accommodate for the ever growing bandwidth demand and reduce power consumption. The key issue for modern telecommunication engineers and designers is no longer cost per bit, but power per bit. Using optical methods for carrying data and processing the data, without opto-to-electrical conversion, so-called all-optical methods, may help in this respect. This project aims at developing an all-optical power-efficient communication scenario based on serial optical communications. In serial communications, fewer components will in general be used, and with ultra-short pulses, very high bit rates will become available. Historically, increases in the serial data rate have lead to cost savings, due to reduced complexity in management, reduced power consumption and a reduced number of components. We believe this will hold true, and will explore the fundamental physical limits of serial communications to reach the ultimate serial bit rate, and develop network scenarios to fully take advantage of the serial nature of the data, whilst maintaining a focus on limiting the power consumption. In particular we want to design network scenarios for optical serial multi-Tbit/s data and additionally build a 1 Tbit/s optical Ethernet scenario. We will develop stable ultrafast switches based on different switching materials and mechanisms, and mature them for a variety of functionalities, eventually leading to a validation of ultra-high-speed serial optical communication systems.

The project has started very successfully. A large number of high-profile publications have been made already within the first 18 months, see selected publications below.

Furthermore, the results on Tbit/s Ethernet, as the SOCRATES project covers, has been of world record nature. Among the key results from the project are: Demonstration of the world’s fastest silicon chip (640 Gbit/s signal processing), demonstration of 1.28 Tbit/s demultiplexing in a silicon chip and in a nonlinear glass waveguide, 1.28 Tbit/s data transmission over 50 km of standard fibre, 640 Gbit/s serial-to-parallel conversion, all-optical Ethernet data packet synchronisation and multiplexing up to 1.29 Tbit/s, optical switching and detection of 640 Gb/s OTDM data packets incl. transmission over 50 km of fibre and others.

In the popular media: click here