1 terabit per second data rate on a single integrated photonic chip

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The findings are to be presented at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference (OFC/NFOEC) taking place next week in Los Angeles.

"Traditional transponder-based system architectures are inflexible and costly and time-consuming to upgrade," explains Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagarajan, research fellow at Infinera and a senior member of Infinera’s PIC development team. "Our PIC approach enables us to make optical networks more powerful, flexible and reliable than ever before using equipment that is significantly smaller, less expensive and uses much less energy."

Infinera’s latest PIC is at the heart of a new 10-channel receiver, each channel operating at 100 Gbit/s data rates. This is the first in the industry to achieve a capacity of 1 Terabit/s on a single photonic integrated chip. It contains more than 150 optical components, such as frequency tunable local oscillator (LO) lasers, devices for mixing the LO and incoming signals, variable optical attenuators for LO power control, a spectral demultiplexer to separate the individual wavelength channels, and 40 balanced photodetector (receiver/transmitter) pairs, all integrated onto a chip smaller than a fingernail.

The key technical advance operating behind 100-Gbit/s-per-channel technology is the ability to detect incoming data encoded using the optical industry’s most spectrally efficient modulation technique, called polarization multiplexed Quadrature Phase-Shift Keying, or PM-QPSK.

To explain the acronym, first PM: it is similar to the wireless communications technique of alternating the polarization of adjacent channels. How does QSPK work? In virtually all types of data transmission, the information is encoded in ways that allow it to travel the farthest while occupying the least amount of signal spectrum. Just as radio’s AM (amplitude modulation) and FM (frequency modulation) imprints information on, respectively, the amplitude and frequency of its broadcast waves, QPSK modifies the light’s phase to represent the data. All in all, PM-QPSK permits four times more information to be conveyed each second than was possible with the previous method, which simply switched the laser light on and off.

The news here is not about the PM-QPSK modulation scheme per se, but rather that Infinera has, for the first time, integrated it all onto a single 10×100 Gbit/s photonic integrated circuit.

Infinera expects PICs with a capability of a terabit or more to be commercially available within a few years. The company has announced that a 500 Gbit/s PIC will be available in 2012.

Visit Infinera at


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