Politecnico di Milano: Integrated Photonics: The First Optical Chip That Directs Wideband Data

A study by the Politecnico di Milano has just been published in the prestigious Nature Communications. The work was conducted under the European Horizon 2020 Nebula project and is the fruit of ten years of collaboration between the Photonic Devices research group and the Innovative Integrated Instrumentation for Nanoscience (I3N) Lab at the Politecnico di Milano.

The researchers have created the first TOADM (tunable optical add-drop multiplexer) capable of selecting and directing signals in network nodes on a silicon chip of just 2 mm2 in a purely optical way. This result opens new perspectives in the growth of wideband transmission in the optical networks of the new 5G/6G communication systems and connections in and between data centres, whether classic or quantum-based.

It is very complex to develop these functionalities in wideband communication systems without deteriorating other signals, while also guaranteeing large volumes, low production costs, and low energy consumption

explain Francesco Morichetti and Andrea Melloni from the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering (DEIB) at the Politecnico di Milano.

The device may be reconfigured in a millionth of a second, permitting dynamic allocation of a hundred wideband optical signals (200 Gbit/s and beyond) in a frequency interval of more than 10,000 GHz. Control of the device is managed by an CMOS integrated electronic circuit also designed in the laboratories at the Politecnico di Milano.

Photonic and electronic chips are made using the same technology as silicon-based microelectronics, which is well established and inexpensive. Soon we will be able to make the entire system on a single chip that manages both electrical and light signals. What we have done is a first step in this direction

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