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High Speed, Cost Effective Optical Communications Module Enabling the Next Generation of Ethernet 400 GbE

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - RocketChip (High Speed, Cost Effective Optical Communications Module Enabling the Next Generation of Ethernet 400 GbE)

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2019-11-30

Technological advances in communication and data transfer are increasingly visible all around us, in our homes, our workplaces and also in the organisations that we depend on. In the 21st century, our lives have become fully immersed in internet data through our use of smartphones, tablets, Internet-enabled Televisions, social media, online gaming, video calling, and cloud storage. New internet applications such as mobile video, Virtual Reality, and Internet of Things are emerging all the time. With our rapidly increasing use of Internet technology, ever-faster data networks are being rolled out, each wave driving even more data through optical fibre networks.
To boost network capacity, planners are moving to deploy as many as 40 streams of different coloured light through each fibre, each colour is a channel carrying its own data: a technology known as Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM). WDM has already been proven as the solution for increasing capacity at the core of the networks and has great potential to provide a vital solution at the edges of the network (where the connections between cloud-computing data centres and mobile phone towers are). However, the network edge solution must be cost-effective.
EFFECT Photonics (a spin-out from the Technical University of Eindhoven (TU/e) in the Netherlands), has developed the solution to this problem. Our unique Optical System-on-Chip technology allows the complete integration of multiple complex light functions into a single tiny chip, known as a Photonic Integrated Circuit (PIC). Our PIC chips are capable of sending many coloured streams of light-data and can be assembled and packaged using our non-hermetic packaging technology, into a very compact module. This module is used to transmit and receive data along optical fibres and is known as a transceiver module. Our unique technology allows EFFECT Photonics to deliver the lowest cost and highest performance optical transceiver modules available today. These compact transceiver modules are industry standard size and can be plugged directly into the racks that sit within data centres, connecting those data centres to other data centres and the rest of the telecommunications network. This directly pluggable module is sold to complex system developers and Web2.0 companies.
The main objective of Project “RocketChip” was to develop and produce high-speed, tuneable, cost-efficient DWDM integrated optics, packaged in very compact modules to meet customer needs in several potential telecom applications.
RocketChip explored exploitation opportunities for single-mode optical fibre transmission of less than 40km, by pushing the limits of direct detect technology, and exploiting high-bit rate 4-level pulse amplitude modulation (PAM4) at 1550nm. Project RocketChip, built on our existing knowledge and exploited our proprietary IP. Our extensive market research and customer interactions throughout the project, revealed that mobile front-haul applications would benefit the most from the project results.
The project has directly enabled EFFECT Photonics to develop a leadership position in the next generation of PICs and hence develop a strong, profitable and growing business in Europe.
The core technical activity in Project RocketChip focussed on the development of individual building blocks that make up a new high-speed, small form factor transceiver (up to 100Gb/s per channel). Tunability and bandwidth transceiver requirements (>25GHz) were addressed through the optimisation of the photonic building blocks and their integration into a single PIC chip. The two main building blocks which were optimised were the tuneable laser source and the Mach-Zehnder modulator. The high-speed modulator transfers the electrical data stream onto the optical signal before it is coupled into the glass fiber. Our new designs have been implemented and tested, resulting in a modulator with a 3dB electro-optical bandwidth of ~25GHz. This allows ~50Gbit/s data transmission per channel using simple on-off keying. Thanks to the linearity of the modulator, we have also shown that the optical chip technology is suitable for using more complex modulation formats, where instead of just using 0s and 1s, multiple levels of light intensity are used (PAM-4 encoding). This allows a further doubling of the data rate per channel (i.e. up to 100Gb/s per channel), enabling capacity increase.
Interconnection of the PIC chip with supporting electronics was facilitated in an optical sub-assembly (OSA). We designed, implemented and verified our OSA to ensure high-speed, low-loss, electro-optical signal conversion and compatibility with the continuously evolving associated technology. Optical subassemblies for single and four-channels were designed to be compatible with physically small, and compact (small form factor) modules. To this end, we have also developed a new and more automated system for small form factor module assembly and test. Our new system both increases the capacity of the production line and increases the repeatability and quality of the assembly process. Through robot automation, we have significantly reduced the need for manual labour. This enables future production scaling in Europe, rather than moving to low labour rate countries. Our work has allowed us to demonstrate: i) the integration of multiple functions into a single PIC chip with tunability features, (ii) the coupling of our chip with high-speed interconnect technology, and iii) the successful operation of the optical sub-assemblies with ready-to-deploy components.
Progress beyond the state of the art: i) integration of multiple functions into a single PIC with tunability features, ii) high-speed optical sub-assembly development fitting in a small form factor, iii) non-hermetic packaging. Based on these achievements we have demonstrated C-band narrow-tunable monolithic transmitter in an optical subassembly and coupled with ready-to-deploy components to enable multi-rate PAM4 transmission up to 100Gb/s per channel. The high-density approach is well-suited for short-range applications (e.g. future mobile networks) where power consumption and cost competitiveness are key.
The project outcomes contribute to the transceiver technologies needed for the upcoming 5G (fifth-generation wireless technology) roll-outs enabling our connectivity needs. The automation of the packaging and assembly process developed during the project ensures that the final product is less dependent on manual labour. This means that there is no need to transfer these processes to low-salary countries to make them cost-effective contributing to enhancing profitability and growth performance of industry in the EU. Furthermore, optical technology products are poised to keep the world-wide growth of data demand sustainable and manageable, without increasing the load on our fragile environment.
Post showing a project result showcased during the European Conference on Optical Communications
Photonic Integrated Circuit or Optical System on Chip
Mona Keijzer and Boudewijn Docter (CTO) during the High Tech Campus, July 2018
Angela Merkel looking at EFFECT Photonics optical chip technology together with PM Rutte
Optical transceiver prototype