Researchers at ETH Zurich have achieved what has been researched for around 20 years: as part of European Horizon 2020 research projects, they have produced a chip in the laboratory on which fast electronic signals can be converted directly into super-fast light signals, in such a way that practically no signal quality is lost. This breakthrough is significant for the performance of optical communication infrastructures that transmit data with light. These include, for example, fiber optic networks.
Such fiber optic networks already enable fast Internet, digital phone calls, television and network-based film or audio services (so-called streaming) in cities like Zurich. By the end of this decade, however, these optical communication networks could also reach their limits in fast data transmission.
The reasons for this are the increasing demand for online services for streaming, storage and computing as well as the emergence of artificial intelligence and 5G networks. Today optical networks achieve data transfer rates in the range of gigabits (109) per second. The limit is 100 gigabits per line and wavelength. In the future, however, transmission rates in the range of terabits (1012) will be required.