New Optical Component Enables Ultrahigh Speed Network

Professor Bahram Jalali


A new generation of ultrahigh-speed optical networking devices was demonstrated as a viable commercial product by a team of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The system features a key component that sends data signals through a light beam made of polymer technology, a longtime goal of network researchers.


The successful demonstration and characterization of the polymer modulator yielded a data transmission rate of 100 Gbps, answering increasing demand for networks that can transmit data at more than 40 Gbps. The higher-speed network components can help meet the ever-growing demand on internet backbones from data, voice, and multimedia services.


Polymers can achieve ultrahigh data rates, but they have presented challenges in being less stable than the inorganic materials commonly used in optical networking. The successful demonstration of an electro-optic (EO) polymer modulator that operates at 100 Gbps additionally showed that researchers also can achieve ultra-high conversions of data between digital and analog formats, another potential bottleneck on optical networks.

Along with UCLA Prof. Bahram Jalali and graduate student Ali Motafakker Fard, the research was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Cailin Wei and Dr. Raluca Dinu of GigOptix, Inc. The work was supported by the Center for Integrated Access Networks (CIAN), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) based at the University of Arizona. UCLA is one of the CIAN partner institutions. The EO polymers have been pursued for many years as an alternative to inorganic photonic materials such as Lithium Niobate because of their ultrafast response time and high EO coefficient.

In order to demonstrate the real-time performance of the new modulator at high frequencies up to 100 GHz, a time-stretch analog-digital converter (TSADC) was used as the test and measuring equipment. This demonstration also showed that the availability of 100 Gbps EO polymer modulators makes 100 GHz analog/digital conversions possible.

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