This chip transmits internet data every second


Internet is energy hungry and requires less electricity. High-powered computers rival NASA. Broadband speeds that can boggle the mind.

This is a new potential fact, according to Scandinavian researchers. In a study published last week, scientists from universities in Sweden and Denmark said they transmitted nearly twice as much internet data through a fiber-optic cable in one second using a laser-powered chip — a world record.

Materials scientists said the chip achieved astounding speeds using a single laser and a specialized light-creating device to transmit data over fiber-optic cables. The amount of data sent by the researchers, about 1.84 petabytes, far exceeds the roughly 1 petabyte of data transmitted across the entire Internet every second. (A petabyte of data is about 1 million gigabytes.)

If commercialized, experts said, the chip could unleash greater broadband speeds and computing power for consumers. Notably, it will reduce the amount of energy needed to run the Internet, which accounts for nearly 10 percent of global electricity consumption and is increasing.

“The Internet is really a huge consumer of energy,” said Leif Katsu Oxenloy, the study’s lead author, in an interview. “We need to be able to support the continued growth of the Internet, but we need to innovate new energy-efficient technologies.”

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Scientists, telecoms executives, and major tech companies are constantly calling for a faster and more efficient internet. Many have tried to increase the amount of data that can be transferred. Others improve latency, which refers to the amount of time it takes for data to respond to commands.

Oxenløwe and the materials scientists said the chip tested by Scandinavian researchers will help significantly with the amount of data the Internet can transmit.

The chip works by using a single laser to create a rainbow of colors through a device called a “frequency comb”. These arrays of light carry data over fiber-optic cables in a faster and less energy-intensive manner.

“It’s like … you’re in the New Jersey Turnpike and all these cars are connected to each other in a way that makes them move in unison,” said John Palato, a professor of materials science at Clemson University, who was not involved in the study.

During the experiment, Swedish and Danish researchers achieved ultra-fast data transfer speeds of 1.84 petabytes per second using a single laser-powered chip. Experts said it usually takes more than 1,000 lasers to achieve this performance.

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Palato said the Nordic team’s speed results are exciting. “A lot of times nothing like that comes up,” he said.

The benefit, he said, lies in the chip’s simple design. Using that, along with a specialized, but not incredibly hard-to-obtain, fiber-optic cable makes it possible for companies to use this method of data transmission in the future, he said. “This is not a one-time thing,” he said. “It’s not a crazy weirdo you think we’ll make it once and never do it again.”

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However, he acknowledged that the design is still in the research stage and could take years to become mainstream. He added that it is not likely that Internet companies will tear the fiber-optic cables to operate the Internet that lies under the sea and replace them in this way.

He said the technology is likely to be used in efforts to launch local, shorter-distance 5G networks, which data-hungry developments, such as self-driving vehicles, will need to rely on to function better.

“Everyone is asking for five grams,” he said. “This is unusual [large amount] of power and bandwidth, a power-hungry proposition.”

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