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Big Hopes for Small Lasers

Photonics Spectra
May 2000
Vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers dominate short data communications applications, but advanced devices should migrate into metropolitan and access networks.

Jack Jewell and Stan Swirhun, Picolight Inc., Boulder, Colo.

The growth in telecommunications, data storage and data processing is driving fiber optic data communications to progress at a breathtaking rate.

At the "edge" of the network, outside the dense wavelength division multiplexed long-haul core, is the "fine-grained" portion of the information infrastructure. This is where dense fiber optic links transport information across backplanes of central office switches and along high-bandwidth backbones between switches, routers and high-volume memory in storage area networks. These high-performance data links require speeds of gigabits per second and faster, small physical volume, low heat dissipation and high-volume manufacturability because of the sheer number of products required in the fine-grained region.

The vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) is the ideal transmit element for these requirements. It made its commercial debut in 1-Gb/s short-distance datacom links and is poised to enable higher-capacity, more complex interconnect tasks. Advanced VCSEL-based products for communications will emerge in 2001 and beyond.

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