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Ultrafast Data Transmit Rates a Hot Topic at OFC/NFOEC

Photonics.com
Feb 2007
ANAHEIM, Calif., Feb. 27, 2007 -- Many new breakthroughs and innovations in fiber optics and associated technologies -- such as record-breaking data transmission rates, new fiber light sources for food inspection and faster space laser communications -- will be presented next month at OFC/NFOEC 2007, the largest and most comprehensive international event for optical communications.

This year’s OFC/NFOEC (Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference) will take place at the Anaheim Convention Center from March 25-29. More than 13,000 attendees are expected, drawn to the event's comprehensive technical program comprising hundreds of sessions, workshops, short courses, tutorial sessions and paper presentations, as well as Market Watch, a three-day series of panel sessions on optical communications; and the Service Provider Summit, a one-day program on topics of interest to chief technology officers, network architects, network designers and technologists featuring keynote speaker Sanghoon Lee, senior executive vice president, Korea Telecom.

A major focus of attendee interest are the technical presentations of peer-reviewed papers from both OFC and NFOEC, and this year's slate includes some topics of up-to-the-minute interest for those working in optical communications.

Clint Schow of IBM will present details about his company's new transceiver, an integrated device that can transmit and receive record-breaking amounts of high-speed data in optical form. IBM is developing the transceiver as part of a DARPA-sponsored chip-to-chip program designed to speed communications between supercomputers.

The transmitting part of the device consists of 16 vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs), lasers that emit light from the face of a semiconductor chip rather than from the cleaved edge of the chip. Each laser is capable of modulating a continuous laser beam at a rate in excess of 10 billion times per second (a record for individual devices in a transceiver), for a total data-sending rate of 160 Gb/s. The 16-channel receiving part of the device operates at the same speed, for a simultaneous data-receiving rate of 160 Gb/s. The optical channels carrying the data can be either fibers or optical waveguides printed on a circuit board.

Another presentation concerns a new light source based on fiber-optic technology that promises to improve the inspection of food, produce, paper, currency, recyclables and other products. Industrial processes for inspecting foodstuffs and other items often use “line-scan” cameras, which record images of objects one line at a time, just as fax machines scan documents on a line-by-line basis. Light sources for line-scan cameras should ideally combine several features: uniform, intense illumination over a rectangular region; a directional beam that avoids wasting unused light by only illuminating the rectangle; precise wavelength control for multispectral analysis; and a “cool” source that does not heat up the objects to be imaged. At least one of these features is lacking in conventional light sources such as tungsten halogen lamps or arrays of LEDs.

Now, Princeton Lightwave Inc. of Cranbury, N.J., and OFS Labs (a Furukawa division based in Somerset, N.J.) have introduced a fiber optics-based solution which they will discuss at the conference. In their design, a bright light source such as a laser sends light through an optical fiber. Along the length of the fiber is an ultraviolet-light-treated region called a fiber grating. The grating deflects the light so that it exits perpendicularly to the length of the fiber as a long, expanding rectangle of light. This optical rectangle is then collimated by a cylindrical lens, such that the rectangle illuminates objects of interest at various distances from the source. The bright rectangle allows line-scan cameras to sort products at higher speeds with improved accuracy.

Another technical presentation concerns future space probes, which will be able to beam information back to Earth from as far as other planets using lasers. The technology promises to transmit data nearly 10 times faster than the fastest radio communication links, and faster than a cable modem, and could be a crucial component of a series of increasingly sophisticated Mars missions, including manned exploration. New fiber-optic-based amplifying technology allows the conversion of electronic data into laser beams with higher efficiency -- a significant factor on spacecraft, where every watt of power is precious. The new advances are a crucial step toward demonstrating the viability of deep-space laser communication; in near-earth lasercom systems, they will result in higher performance with smaller size, weight, power, and cost.

Traditionally, high bandwidth signals (40 Gb/s) could only be transmitted over approximately 6km of standard optical fibers without optical devices to compensate for the fibers’ inherent limits, such as the chromatic dispersion which results in the separation of the different optical frequencies of the signal. A British team has developed a transmission method based on a spectrally-efficient modulation format and electronic digital dispersion compensation, which they showed can increase the range to more than 6000km. The technology also will allow for 40 Gb/s to be transmitted over older optical fibers, which would otherwise only be able to accommodate lower bandwidth signals. They will present their paper at OFC/NFOEC.

In another technical presentation, Hitachi researchers will discuss how they have developed new components that could also help increase the range of high-bandwidth transmission at a low cost. The components are optical resonators based on silicon instead of ordinary glass. The higher refractive index of silicon means optical resonators can be smaller in size, which in turn means narrower laser beams can be used, leading to less dispersion over long distances.

Another Japanese team will present their innovation: A new kind of interferometer for measuring dispersion with high precision, which could help in the development of new materials for ultrafast fiber optics.

Also a focus of the technical conference will be a panel discussion about state-of-the-art fiber to the home (FTTH) technologies. Fiber-optic Internet and video-on-demand access directly to the home has the potential to vastly increase bandwidth over DSL or cable. Availability in the US has so far lagged that in other industrialized countries such as Japan, but millions of US homes are now starting to have fiber as an option. The panel will also discuss proposals for future fiber optic standards that could increase bandwidth to as much as 10 Gb/s, or 10,000 times faster than a typical DSL connection.

The five-day conference will also feature plenary talks by Mark Wegleitner, senior vice president of Technology and Network Planning and chief technology officer of Verizon Communications; Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of the non-profit organization One Laptop per Child; and Chongcheng Fan, vice director of the Professional Group of Optical Communication at the Chinese Institute of Communications.

A three-day exhibition featuring the latest in optical technology from more than 600 industry companies is also an attraction.

OFC/NFOEC is sponsored by the IEEE Communications Society, the IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optics Society (LEOS), and the Optical Society of America (OSA).

For more information, visit: www.ofcnfoec.org


GLOSSARY
light
Electromagnetic radiation detectable by the eye, ranging in wavelength from about 400 to 750 nm. In photonic applications light can be considered to cover the nonvisible portion of the spectrum which includes the ultraviolet and the infrared.
optical communications
The transmission and reception of information by optical devices and sensors.
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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