A research team at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) has for the first time incorporated on a single chip both a widely tunable laser and an all-optical wavelength converter, thereby creating an integrated photonic circuit for transcribing data from one color of light to another. Such a device is key to realizing an all-optical network. This research is being funded by a Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) Microsystems Technology Office (MTO) grant to push the boundary for photonic-circuit functional integration.
Think about data transmission over the Internet in terms of a telephone call between Los Angeles and New York. What enables two people to talk is the "dedicated" line between them. On the Internet the long-distance transport of information between the two cities is via optical fibers or light pipes, which can move numerous colors of light over a single fiber at the same time with each color representing a "dedicated" line for the transmission of data (i.e., wavelength division multiplexing [WDM]).
Data moves between coasts through nodes of the Internet located in cities like Phoenix or Houston, where the capability is needed to switch information arriving on one fiber as orange photons to continue the next leg of their journey on another fiber as red photons because the channel for orange on that fiber is in use. Today, this switching from one color to another has to be done by converting photons to electrons, switching electronically, and converting electrons back to photons.
Jacquelyn Savani | EurekAlert!
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