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Grant Funds Feasibility Study of Photonic Ethernet Chips

Hao Hu (Technical University of Denmark)

Hao Hu (Technical University of Denmark)

A researcher at Technical University of Denmark in Lyngby has received a DKK 2.2 million ($US 370,000) grant to study the use of photonics to achieve high-speed Ethernet transfers on silicon chips. The grant from the Danish Council for Independent Research will fund the work of photonics staff researcher Hao Hu (pictured left) at Alcatel-Lucent-Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey.

Ethernet is a local-area network specification developed by Xerox Corporation, with DEC and Intel, in the 1970s. The specification, widely adopted for hard-wired data networking, originally supported 10 megabytes per second, but more recent versions of the specification support speeds as high as 1 gigabyte per second.

Photonics covers technical applications of light over the whole spectrum from ultraviolet to visible to infrared frequencies for the generation, transmission, and processing of data. Hao Hu’s project will explore the feasibility of photonics to achieve 1 terabit — 1 trillion bits — per second Ethernet speeds on silicon chips.

The study is part of an overall project to break the 1 terabit per second barrier on silicon chips. The project’s goal is to generate a 1 terabit per second signal, and have it transmitted, routed, and detected on a silicon chip. Silicon is the most common material used in semiconductors and the second most abundant element on earth.

The use of photonics, says the university, can make it possible to break through current limitations of data transfers and energy consumption. With a silicon base, new chip designs should be able to take advantage of current manufacturing techniques and economies of scale.

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