A single chip has managed to transfer over a petabit-per-second according to research by a team of scientists from universities in Denmark, Sweden, and Japan. That's over one million gigabits of data per second over a fibre optic cable, or basically the entire internet's worth of traffic.
The researchers—A. A. Jørgensen, D. Kong, L. K. Oxenløwe—and their team successfully showed a data transmission of 1.84 petabits over a 7.9km fibre cable using just a single chip. That's not quite as fast as some other alternatives with larger, bulkier systems, which have reached up to 10.66 petabits, but the key here is scale: the proposed system is very compact.
By splitting a data stream into 37 sections, one for each core of a fibre optic cable, and then further splitting each of those streams into 223 channels, the researchers were able to remove a great deal of interference that slows down optical systems and therefore deliver an internet's worth of data transmission using a single chip.
"You could say the average internet traffic in the world is about a petabit per second. What we transmit is two times that," Jørgensen says in a comment on New Scientist (opens in new tab). "It’s an incredibly large amount of data that we’re sending through, essentially, less than a square millimetre [of cable]. It just goes to show that we can go so much further than we are today with internet connections."
The researchers also theorise that such a system could support speeds of up to 100 petabits-per-second in massively parallel systems.
The research paper (opens in new tab) relies on a bank of investigations into the concept of a single chip solution across multiple researchers and papers, including one by researchers in Australia called 'Ultra-dense optical data transmission over standard fibre with a single chip source (opens in new tab)'. Catchy.
Essentially, high-speed data transmission that often requires a fibre optic cable and bulky equipment is now being miniaturised into a smaller on-chip package. Instead of multiple lasers in parallel, which come with their own set of challenges, it's possible to shrink a good deal of this equipment to the silicon level. And with that even remove some of the difficulties in sending massive data packages long distances and at high speeds.
A big part of these new breakthroughs are microcombs, which are a way of generating constant and measurable frequencies of light. These are not only useful for shrinking down the requirements for a system such as this, but have also recently seen breakthroughs when added to CMOS chips (opens in new tab).
In fact, a whole lot more could be added to a CMOS chip to make this whole system even more integrated, says Jørgensen. So if this seems fast and compact now, it's only a matter of time before an even more integrated, speedier version is developed. Stack up more of these devices into a single parallel system and you're talking mega-bandwidth from a single server rack.
Basically, the internet has a whole lot more room to grow.