New chip transmits 1.84 petabits per second

Daniel Chetroni / iStock

Researchers in Denmark were able to build a prototype photonic computer chip that is able to transmit a record 1.84 petabits of data per second via fiber-optic cable, nearly twice of the entire world's Internet traffic, smashing all records. 

NewScientist journal reported on Thursday that Asbjørn Arvad Jørgensen at the Technical University of Denmark in Copenhagen and his colleagues were able to use a photonic chip, a new technology that allows optical components to be built onto computer chips, to divide a stream of data into thousands of separate channels and transmit them all at once over 7.9 kilometers. The achievement demonstrated enough bandwidth to download 230 million photographs in a single second, through a stable spectrum. 

Prior achievements have allowed data transfer rates of up to 10.66 petabits per second, but these have been derided as inefficient and impractical considering the bulky equipment required. This new and improved research uses a single computer chip as the light source, with tiny fractions of energy costs and radical improvements over bandwidths. "The experiment used so much data that no computer exists today that could ever supply or receive this much information at this rate," Interesting Engineering website reported.

"The team had to pass 'dummy data' through all channels and equipment at a time to ensure it was all being sent and recovered adequately. You could say the average internet traffic in the world is about a petabit per second. What we transmit is two times that. It's an incredibly large amount of data that we're sending through, essentially, less than a square millimeter [of cable]. It just goes to show that we can go so much further than we are today with internet connections."

- Asbjørn Arvad Jørgensen

The achievement exceeded prior stable transmission experiments, including a much lauded study in Australia in May demonstrating 44.2 terabits per second utilizing a novel micro-comb lattice structure for fiber optics. This new research last week showed that only a single laser, shining continuously, split into many frequencies, could be integrated into a single chip itself. Resultant "photonic chips" could be fit inside tiny matchbox-sized devices, smaller than most Raspberry Pi cards today. It will have dramatic implications in the months and years to come for how much data machines can consume and what sorts of advanced computing tasks can be executed.