With record speeds for data transmission over fiber optics, engineers at the University of Illinois have blazed a fast lane on the information superhighway, creating on-ramps for big data.
Graduate Researcher Michael Liu will present the research team’s developments in oxide-VCSEL technology, which underpins fiber optic communication systems, at the Fiber Optic Communication Conference and Expo in Anaheim, CA . The research team was led by electrical and computer engineering professor Milton Feng – who will be present at the conference – and also included professor emeritus Nick Holonyak Jr. and graduate researcher Curtis Wang.
As big data has become more important, the need for a high-speed data transmission infrastructure capable of supporting the ever-increasing volume of bits transferred from one place to another has grown.
“Our big question has always been, how to speed up the transmission of information?” Feng said. “There’s a lot of data out there, but if your data transmission isn’t fast enough, you can’t use the data that’s been collected; you can’t use future technologies that use large streams of data, such as virtual reality. The direction towards fiber optic communication will increase because there is a faster data rate, especially over distance.”
Feng’s group has been pushing VCSEL technology to higher speeds in recent years, and in 2014 was the first group in the United States to achieve error-free data transmission at 40 gigabits per second (referred to as Gbps) . Now, in a series of conference papers, they report error-free data transmission of 57 Gbps at room temperature, as well as 50 Gbps speeds at higher temperatures up to 85 degrees Celsius (185 degrees Fahrenheit).
Achieving high speeds at high temperatures is very difficult, Feng said, due to the nature of the materials used, which prefer lower temperatures. However, computer components heat up during prolonged operation, as anyone who has worked on a laptop that gets hotter and hotter can attest.
“That’s why data centers are refrigerated and have cooling systems,” Feng said. “For data centers and for commercial use, you would like a device that does not carry a refrigerator. The device should be operational from room temperature up to 85 degrees without expending energy and resources to the recooling.”
Feng hopes the conference presentations and papers will prove that high-speed operation at elevated temperatures is scientifically possible and useful for commercial applications.
“This type of technology is going to be used not only for data centers, but also for light air communications, such as in airplanes, because fiber optic wires are much lighter than copper wire,” Feng said. “We think it could be very useful for the industry. That’s what makes the job so important to us.”
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Material provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Original written by Liz Ahlberg. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.