Optical communications

New data transmission record

Using only a single light source, scientists have set a world record by transmitting 1.8 petabits per second. Their data transmission method uses significantly less power and can help reduce the Internet’s climate footprint.

Did you know?

Packing light with data is known as modulation. Here, the wave properties of light are utilized such as:

  • Amplitude (the height/strength of the waves)
  • Phase (the ‘rhythm’ of the waves, where it is possible to make a shift so that a wave arrives either a little earlier or a little later than expected)
  • Polarization (the directions in which the waves spread).

By changing these properties, you create signals. The signals can be translated into either ones or zeros - and thus utilized as data signals.

Reduces Internet power consumption

The researchers’ solution bodes well for the future power consumption of the Internet.

“In other words, our solution provides a potential for replacing hundreds of thousands of the lasers located at Internet hubs and data centres, all of which guzzle power and generate heat. We have an opportunity to contribute to achieving an Internet that leaves a smaller climate footprint,” says Leif Katsuo Oxenløwe.

Even though the researchers have broken the petabit barrier for a single laser source and a single chip in their demonstration, there is still some development work ahead before the solution can be implemented in our current communication systems, according to Leif Katsuo Oxenløwe.

“All over the world, work is being done to integrate the laser source in the optical chip, and we’re working on that as well. The more components we can integrate in the chip, the more efficient the whole transmitter will be. I.e. laser, comb-creating chip, data modulators, and any amplifier elements. It will be an extremely efficient optical transmitter of data signals,” says Leif Katsuo Oxenløwe.

Partners behind the experiment

The experiment in which the researchers transferred 1.8 Pbit/s and the subsequent calculations have been published in Nature Photonics and can be found here.

DTU has collaborated with researchers from:

  • Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen
  • Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience, Chalmers University of Technology
  • Optical Technologies R&D Center, Fujikura Ltd, Japan.

About optical communications research at DTU

The Centre of Excellence Silicon Photonics for Optical Communications (SPOC) develops the scientific basis in data transmission, where the ultimate data capacity is strived for. The aim is to reduce the energy consumption of the Internet.



Leif Katsuo Oxenløwe

Leif Katsuo Oxenløwe Professor, Group Leader Department of Electrical and Photonics Engineering Phone: +45 45253784