Scientists have achieved the world’s fastest internet data speed, which is enough to download 1000 HD movies in a split second, using a single optical chip, an advance that can help scale up the capacity of network connections across the world.
According to the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, the new innovation could fast-track telecommunications capacity of countries struggling with demand on internet infrastructure.
The researchers, including Bill Corcoran from Monash University in Australia, recorded a data speed of 44.2 Terabits per second (Tbps) from a single light source.
This speed, the scientists said, was achieved by attaching their new device to existing fibre-optic technology, like the one used in broadband internet network.
“Initially, these would be attractive for ultra-high speed communications between data centres,” Arnan Mitchell, a co-author of the study from RMIT University in Australia, said in a statement.
They tested the transmission on 76.6 kilometres of optical fibres between RMIT’s Melbourne City Campus and Monash University’s Clayton Campus.
The fibre loop, according to the scientists, is part of the Australian Lightwave Infrastructure Research Testbed (ALIRT) established with investment from the Australian Research Council.
In the study, the researchers used their new device which replaces 80 lasers with one single piece of equipment known as a micro-comb, which is smaller and lighter than existing telecommunications hardware.
They explained that it acts like a rainbow made up of hundreds of high quality invisible, infrared lasers from a single chip.
Each of these lasers, the study noted, has the capacity to be used as a separate communications channel.
The scientists placed the micro-comb onto ALIRT’s optical fibres and sent maximum data down each channel, simulating peak internet usage, across 4 TeraHertz (THz) of bandwidth.
While this micro-comb has been used within a lab-setting, they said this is the first time it is used in a field trial.
With an unprecedented number of people using the internet for remote work, socialising, and streaming during coronavirus lockdowns, the researchers said the trial reflected the normal demand for internet infrastructure in a few years’ time.
“It’s really showing us that we need to be able to scale the capacity of our internet connections,” Corcoran said.
Based on the results, he believes that the fibres already part of internet infrastructure in the ground may be the backbone of communications networks now and into the future.
“And it’s not just Netflix we’re talking about here—it’s the broader scale of what we use our communication networks for,” he added.
Corcoran said the data can be used for self-driving cars and future transportation, and it can help the medicine, education, finance and e-commerce industries, as well.
David Moss, Director of the Optical Sciences Centre at Swinburne University, said micro-comb chips have become an enormously important field of research in the ten years since he co-invented them.
According to Moss, micro-combs offer enormous promise for us to meet the world’s insatiable demand for bandwidth.
“This work demonstrates the capability of optical micro-combs to perform in demanding and practical optical communications networks,” the scientists wrote in the study.