With record-breaking speeds for fiber-optic data transmission, University of Illinois engineers have paved a fast lane on the information superhighway – creating on-ramps for big data in the process.
As big data has gotten bigger, the need has grown for a high-speed data transmission infrastructure that can accommodate the ever-growing volume of bits transferred from one place to another.
“There is a lot of data out there, but if your data transmission is not fast enough, you cannot use data that’s been collected; you cannot use upcoming technologies that use large data streams, like virtual reality. The direction toward fiber-optic communication is going to increase because there’s a higher speed data rate, especially over distance.”
Feng’s group has been pushing VCSEL technology to higher speeds in recent years, and in 2014 was the first group in the U.S. to achieve error-free data transmission at 40 gigabits per second.
Now, in a series of conference papers, they report 57 Gbps error-free data transmission at room temperature, as well as 50 Gbps speeds at higher temperatures up to 85 degrees Celsius.
Achieving high speeds at high temperatures is very difficult, Feng said, due to the nature of the materials used, which prefer lower temperatures.
“That’s why data centers are refrigerated and have cooling systems,” Feng said.
“For data centers and for commercial use, you’d like a device not to carry a refrigerator. The device needs to be operational from room temperature all the way up to 85 degrees without spending energy and resources on cooling.”
“This type of technology is going to be used not only for data centers, but also for airborne, lightweight communications, like in airplanes, because the fiber-optic wires are much lighter than copper wire,” Feng said.