|Today’s Internet is not built to handle the increase in data traffic and associated energy requirements projected over the next 10 years. In 5 years already, current Ethernet technologies may not be able to keep up with the speed and bandwidth required for applications like streaming high definition video, cloud computing, and distributed data storage. Current Ethernet technologies can not be pushed much beyond 100 Gigabits per second—the speed that is beginning to be implemented now—mainly because of the amount of power needed to run and cool the required systems. To get over this hurdle, it is urgent to develop break-through technologies for the future Internet to dramatically increase the capacity and reduce the energy consumption.
Following the IEEE standardization roadmap, the next step of 100 GE will result in Terabit/s Ethernet (TbE), which is already on the wish list of leading internet content providers and is believed to come true in 2015 by Ethernet pioneers. Using energy-saving technologies based on photonics is the path forward. Scientists at Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs report that optical transmission gear consumes more than a factor of 10 less than other network technologies such as cellular base stations and packet routers. Therefore, it is relevant to explore optical technologies in order to achieve 1 TbE with low energy consumption. New low-cost, energy-efficient optical technologies that leverage the techniques now used in semiconductor manufacturing will be the foundation for the Ethernet of the future. Silicon chip based opto-electronic hybrid signal processing technology is an appropriate candidate due to its ultra-fast speed and the potential for monolithic integration enabling compact photonic circuitry. In addition, Si is not only the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, but the extensive use in electronics promises cheap mass production based on the huge amount of existing processing infrastructure.
This project proposes to explore the feasibility of ‘terabit-per-second on-chip’ silicon photonic processors in order to achieve 1 TbE with small footprint, low energy consumption and low cost. The aim of this project is to break the on-chip Terabit/s barrier and realise functionalities for 1 TbE using silicon photonic chips, including generating, transmitting, routing and detecting Tbit/s serial or parallel signals. This project is also expected to trigger wide interest in both scientific and industry communities regarding the development of energy efficient Terabit Ethernet using silicon chips based opto-electronic hybrid signal processing techniques.