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Case study: Creating connections

Hamamatsu optical fibre

Fibre optics have revolutionised the way the world communicates (Credit: Hamamatsu)

Creating and sharing high-speed data has become the cornerstone of our society. The reach and impact of optical communications is yet to be fully understood. However, many challenges face photonics technology in optical communications. technology relies on transmitting light signals over long distances, so signal loss can occur due to effects like scattering, absorption, and dispersion. Minimising signal loss is crucial to maintain signal integrity and achieving high speed, particularly for long-distance communication.

With the increasing demand for high-speed data transmission, there is a constant need to expand the bandwidth capacity. Photonics technology has the challenge to increase bandwidth while maintaining signal quality. Power consumption is also key to ensuring energy-efficient optical communication systems, particularly in data centres.  
Integrating various optical components and functionalities into a compact device is key to improving the efficiency and scalability of optical communication systems. Photonic technology needs to realise high levels of integration and miniaturisation, with high performance and high reliability.

Remarkable data transmission speed

From the early days of telegraphs to the introduction of LED and multimode fibre, the capacity and transmission distances of data have greatly improved. More specifically, optical communication through fibre optic technology has undergone significant advancements over the years. The development of optical amplifiers and DWDM (Dense wavelength-division multiplexing) systems further enhanced the capability of fibre communication, allowing for the transport of multiple wavelengths over long distances. Presently, experimental systems have successively transmitted data of 1,840Tbps (Terabits per second) over a single 37-core, 7.9-km-long fibre1, making fibre optic cables the backbone of long-distance and regional networks.

Today, fibre-optic communication, linked to photonics technology, has revolutionised the way we transmit data over short and long distances and it is used across many fields including factory automation, consumer electronics, automotive and medical. Fibre-optic communication products include transmitter photo ICs, integrating light emitters and driver circuits, as well as receiver photo ICs, integrating light sensors and signal processing circuits, capable of achieving high data transmission speed. Optical transceivers, integrating the transmitter and receiver features, enable higher-speed data communication, while also incorporating optical connectors suitable for a wide range of optical fibres.

Hamamatsu Photonics recently developed an optical transceiver capable of achieving fibre-optic communications at a significantly higher data transmission speed than before, now reaching 1.25Gbps (gigabits per second). It provides standard-compliant optical connectors that attach to the preferred optical fibres, depending on the application. For short-distance board-to-board communication within the equipment it is usable with inexpensive POF (plastic optical fibres) achieving high-speed data communication at a low cost. Moreover, when used in conjunction with HPCF (hard plastic clad fibres) or large-diameter glass optical fibres, it extends the data transmission distance up to 100m, making it ideal for establishing networks or facilitating communication between devices and equipment.

Underwater communication

Underwater optical communication has other challenges for photonics, including mitigating the effects of attenuation and scattering, and the need for a robust and reliable solution due to the underwater environment. In response to this, high-speed response PMT (photomultiplier tube) modules featuring high gain, and a large effective diameter for better light collection, are ideal for high-speed underwater optical communications.

Measuring data

There exist ultra high-speed detectors called streak cameras which capture light emission phenomena occurring in extremely short time periods. Used for a variety of applications, these have proven to be useful for optical communications since they can measure the dispersion in time occurring in optical fibre. For example, a laser diode with a wavelength of 1.5μm generates many pluses, creating different wavelengths at the same time. The speed of each optical pulse transmitting through the optical fibre varies depending on its wavelength. Thus, when the output light undergoes time-resolved spectroscopy after being transmitted a long distance, the differences in arrival time depending on each wavelength of a pulse can be measured. This is practical to gather the necessary information when manufacturing optical fibres.

Hamamatsu Photonics remains committed to pushing the boundaries of transmission speed, continuously expanding its product lineup and meeting evolving market demands. Its dedication to innovation in fibre-optic communication and photonics technology ensures that the world will continue to benefit from faster and more reliable data transmission in various industries.


1. Petabit-per-second data transmission using a chip-scale microcomb ring resonator source | Nature Photonics

Further information
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