European scientists with the Horizon 2020 funded consortium TERIPHIC are using photonics to develop a low emission, 1.6 terabit-per-second (Tbit/s) speed internet that will reduce power consumption by 50% per Gbit/s. TERIPHIC is developing new optical transceiver modules used in internet datacenters to reduce power consumption and in turn see lower carbon emissions. In addition, the TERIPHIC group expects the new transceivers to solve problems faster and reduce queue times.
Shortening processing intervals for high-performance computing, edge computing, and machine learning, the new ultrahigh-capacity, low power consumption pluggable modules are capable of both 800 Gbit/s and 1.6 Tbit/s. Aiming to surpass current "gold" standards of 400 Gbit/s, TERIPHIC (which stands for "TERabit optical transceivers based on InP EML arrays and a Polymer Host platform for optical InterConnects") expect the modules to cost €0.3 per Gbit/s. InP stands for indium phosphide, while EML stands for electroabsorption-modulated laser.
The three-year, €5.6 million TERIPHIC project will operate until December 2021 and has received a grant of €4.7 million from the European Commission via the Photonics PPP.
Compatible with mass production
"TERIPHIC intends to develop low-cost terabit optical transceivers through the automation of current photonic integration concepts and processes in commercial assembly machines," says Panos Groumas from the TERIPHIC project coordination team. "While 400G is impressive, and was demonstrated in 2018, high-performance computing, edge computing, machine learning, and end-user experiences will not run on existing speeds of 400 Gbit/s. We are developing mass-production-compatible 800 Gbit/s pluggable modules with 8 lanes and 1.6 Tbit/s mid-board modules with 16 lanes having at least 2 km reach. When the Gbit/s power consumption is reduced, datacenters will consume less power, and given that they are powered by powerplants relying on various fuel sources including coal, we will see a significant reduction in carbon emissions.”
Project Leader, Professor Hercules Avramopoulos adds, "TERIPHIC will bring together EML arrays in the O-band, PD arrays, and a polymer chip that will act as the host platform for the integration of the arrays and the wavelength mux-demux of the lanes. The integration will rely on butt-end-coupling steps, which will be automated via the development of module-specific alignment and attachment processes on commercial equipment. The new transceiver design introduced by TERIPHIC will allow significant cost savings, due to assembly automation of both the transmitter and receiver optical subassembly (TOSA/ROSA) parts, and also at the packaging level, resulting in a cost of around €0.3 per Gbit/s for the transceiver modules."
ICCS and Telecom Italia are responsible for providing the system specs, and together with Mellanox are responsible for the testing of the devices in both lab and real settings, notes Avramopoulos. Fraunhofer HHI is providing the photonic platform and the active components and is responsible for the hybrid integration of the latter with the photonic platform using ficonTEC machines.
"FiconTEC provides custom equipment for the automated assembly processes while III-V lab provides the high-speed electronic driver chips. Finally, Mellanox Technologies will take up the packaging of the transceivers," says Avramopoulos.
The project is coordinated by the Photonics Communications Research Laboratory (PCRL) of the Institute of Communication and Computer Systems (ICCS) at NTU Athens, Greece. The consortium comprises five additional partners from four European countries: Heinrich-Hertz Institute of Fraunhofer Gesellschaft Zur Foerderung der Angewandten Forschung e.v, ficonTEC Service GmbH (Germany); III-V Lab (France); Mellanox Technologies Ltd. Mlnx (Israel); Telecom Italia Spa (Italy).