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How to develop a new generation of faster, cheaper and greener optical networks

A team of scientists has developed a novel circuit architecture for high-speed optical transceivers to facilitate full automation, agility and efficiency in future data centres.

Digital Economy

With rising demand for bandwidth-hungry applications and higher network capacities, there’s a greater need for making networks more efficient and dynamic while reducing overall power consumption and costs. Enter the EU-funded QAMeleon project that aims to develop an end-to-end solution for next-generation optical networks. As explained in a project video presentation, “QAMeleon will enable full automation, agility and efficient networking based on transponders and ROADM [reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer] concept, as building blocks, empowered by novel digital signal processing functionalities in combination with an overarching software defined networking platform.” ROADM refers to a form of optical add-drop multiplexer that adds the ability to remotely switch traffic from a wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) system at the wavelength layer. WDM involves modulating numerous data streams – i.e. optical carrier signals of varying wavelengths of laser light onto a single optical fibre. “The QAMeleon ROADM concept relies on the hybrid integration of indium phosphide photonic chips on a polymer electro-optic circuit board together with liquid-crystal-on-silicon technology,” the same video states.

Crucial building block

According to a press release on ‘NewswireToday’, project partner Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre, in collaboration with Ghent University, recently showcased “a high-speed silicon analog time-interleaver achieving signalling rates up to 100 Gbaud (200Gb/s) at a power consumption of only 700mW using PAM-4 modulation.” The press release states: “The demonstrated new architecture is a crucial building block for high-speed optical transceivers in future datacenters. Over the next few years, datacenters will upgrade their networks to cope with the exploding demand for data consumption. A growing number of optical links interconnects the server racks through a hierarchical network of fiber optical cables. While these links need to be low cost and low power, they require an increase in signaling rate up to at least 100 Gbaud.” Quoted in the same press release, Guy Torfs from Ghent University says: “Compared to other silicon implementations, this new circuit architecture combines a significant increase in baud rate with a lower power dissipation. In addition, the scalable SiGe BiCMOS technology can be implemented at high manufacturing volume, paving the way to cost-effective high-speed optical transceivers for the next-generation data center.” The QAMeleon (Sliceable multi-QAM format SDN-powered transponders and ROADMs Enabling Elastic Optical Networks) project will end in December 2021. Project partners hope to turn QAMeleon’s key innovations into tangible market outcomes with high exploitation potential in telecom applications. The project website states: “Driven by user needs, the project aims to bridge innovative research in optical networking with near-market exploitation, achieving transformational impact in energy consumption and cost/bit that will allow metro and core networks to continue to scale.” The QAMeleon consortium includes universities, research institutes, industrial partners and a telecom operator. For more information, please see: QAMeleon project website

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Greece

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