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OFC/NFOEC 2007 previewed

23 Feb 2007

The optical communications extravaganza in March will showcase many breakthoughs including data transmission at "record" rates, improved food inspection and space laser communications.

Many new breakthroughs and innovations in fiber optics and associated technologies will be presented at OFC/NFOEC 2007 - which claims to be "the largest and most comprehensive international event for optical communications".

This year's Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference is set to take place at the Anaheim Convention Center, Ca, US, between March 25 and 29, with more than 13,000 attendees expected.

Besides the technical conference that runs throughout the meeting, there will be an exhibition featuring the latest in optical technology from more than 600 companies. The meeting is sponsored by the IEEE Communications Society, the IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optics Society (LEOS), and the Optical Society of America (OSA).

Ahead of the event the organizers have drawn up a list of technical presentation highlights for attendees to look out for. These include:

Data links transmitting and receiving at unprecedented rates

IBM has developed a new transceiver. The transmitting part of the device consists of 16 vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs). Each laser is capable of modulating a continuous laser beam at a rate in excess of 10 billion times per second (which IBM is claiming as a record for individual devices in a transceiver), for a total data transmission rate of 160 Gbit/s.

Clint Schow of IBM will announce details of this work at the OFC meeting. (Paper reference: OThG4 160 Gbit/s, 16-channel Full-Duplex, Single-chip CMOS Optical Transceiver)

Fiber-based light source promises better food inspection

A novel light source, based on fiber optic technology, will improve the inspection of food, produce, paper, and other products. Industrial processes for inspecting foodstuffs and other items often use line-scan cameras, which record images of objects one line at a time, just as fax machines scan documents on a line-by-line basis.

Light sources for line-scan cameras should ideally combine several features: uniform, intense illumination over a rectangular region; a directional beam that avoids wasting unused light by only illuminating the rectangle; precise wavelength control for multispectral analysis; and a "cool" source that does not heat up the objects to be imaged. At least one of these features is lacking in conventional light sources such as tungsten halogen lamps or arrays of light-emitting diodes.

Now, Princeton Lightwave and OFS Labs have introduced a fiber optics-based solution. In their design, a bright light source - such as a laser - sends light through an optical fiber. Along the length of the fiber is an ultraviolet-light-treated fiber grating region.

This deflects the light so that it exits perpendicularly to the length of the fiber as a long, expanding rectangle of light. This optical rectangle is then collimated by a cylindrical lens, such that the rectangle illuminates objects of interest at various distances from the source. The bright rectangle allows line-scan cameras to sort products at higher speeds with improved accuracy. (Paper reference: OThP1 FBG Based Distributed Lighting for Sensing Applications).

Space laser communication

Future space probes will be able to transmit information back to Earth from other planets using lasers. The technology promises to transmit data nearly 10 times faster than the fastest radio communication links, and faster than a cable modem, and could be a crucial component of a series of Mars missions, including manned exploration.

Fiber-optic-based amplifying technology allows the conversion of electronic data into laser beams with higher efficiency - a significant factor on a spacecraft. The advances are a step toward demonstrating the viability of deep-space laser communication; in near-earth lasercom systems. (Paper reference: OMF2, High-Efficiency Ytterbium-Doped Fiber Amplifier Designed for Interplanetary Laser Communications).

Pushing the limits for optical fiber networks

Traditionally, high bandwidth signals (40 Gbit/s) could only be transmitted over approximately 6 km of standard optical fiber without compensation devices. A British team has developed a transmission method based on a spectrally-efficient modulation format and electronic digital dispersion compensation, which can increase the range to more than 6,000 km.

This technology will also allow for 40 Gbit/s to be transmitted over older optical fiber, which would otherwise only be able to accommodate lower bandwidth signals. (Paper reference: OTuA1: Transmission of 42.8 Gbit/s Polarization Multiplexed NRZ-QPSK over 6400 km of Standard Fiber with no Optical Dispersion Compensation).

High bandwidth transmission

Hitachi researchers have developed components that could increase the range of high-bandwidth transmission - at low cost. The components are optical resonators based on silicon instead of ordinary glass. The higher refractive index of silicon means optical resonators can be smaller in size, which means narrower laser beams can be used, leading to less dispersion over long distances. (Paper refernce OThC3: A Tunable Dispersion Compensator with Highly Refractive Silicon Etalons).

Higher precision optical dispersion measurement

Another Japanese team has developed an interferometer for measuring dispersion with high precision, which could help in the development of new materials for “ultrafast” fiber optics. (Paper refernce OThO1: Single-Shot Fiber Dispersionmetry).

Fiber to the people

Bringing fiber-optic Internet and video-on-demand access directly to the home has the potential to vastly increase bandwidth over DSL or cable. Availability in the United States has so far lagged that in other industrialized countries such as Japan, but millions of American homes are now starting to have fiber as an option.

A panel discussion will examine fiber to the home technologies as well as proposals for future fiber optic standards that could increase bandwidth to as much as 10 Gbit/s, or 10,000 times faster than a typical DSL connection.(Reference: FTTX: New Directions),

Plenary sessions

The OFC/NFOEC 2007 Plenary Session will take place on Tuesday, March 27. Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of the non-profit organization One Laptop per Child, will lead the discussion, Networks without Operators.

He will explain how the state of telecommunications is changing, including how the Internet is proof that man-made systems can emerge from the bottom up like natural phenomena. He will also discuss his organization's plan to develop $100 laptop computers.

Mark Wegleitner, senior VP Technology & Network Planning and CTO of Verizon Communications, will present Maximizing the Impact of Optical Technology.

He will discuss how the demand for higher bandwidth applications for business and residential services has impacted the development of optical technology to the point where in-home optical networks are now both practical and economical.

Chongcheng (“CC”) Fan, vice director of the Professional Group of Optical Communication at the Chinese Institute of Communications will present Optical Fiber Communications in Mainland China: Activities and Visions of Carriers, Equipment Vendors and Academia.

Fan will discuss the fast-growing telephone, mobile phone and Internet industries in China, including the challenges service providers face in generating more revenue and profit.

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