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Ultra-fast graphene photonics powers next-gen datacoms

28 Feb 2018

"World first" live demonstration at the Graphene Pavilion at this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

On show for the first time at this week’s GSMA Mobile World Congress (Barcelona, February 26th - March 1st) are two graphene-based photonics devices, which give a glimpse into the future of data communications.

At the Graphene Pavilion, visitors can experience the world’s first all-graphene optical communication link operating at a data rate of 25 Gb/s per channel and at the Ericsson stand can discover the first ultrafast graphene-based photonic switches in an Ericsson testbed.

These graphene-based photonic devices are the potential building blocks of the next generation of mobile networks, leading to ultrafast data streams with extreme bandwidth, said by many analysts to be essential for a data-driven future.

Within the European Graphene Flagship international research and development group, the electronic and optical properties of graphene are used to fabricate optical communication devices at an entirely new performance level. The Graphene Flagship brings together researchers from academia and industry to accelerate innovation.

The importance of this can will be shown by the results produced by the collaboration between Graphene Flagship partners AMO GmbH (Germany), CNIT (Italy), Ericsson (Sweden), Imec (Belgium), Nokia (Italy) and Nokia Bell Labs (Germany), for example.

"5G will all be about optical communications, and the realisation of the ultrafast optical communication link with graphene is a real breakthrough. It is very exciting that it is already on display at the Ericsson stand,” said ICREA Professor Frank Koppens from ICFO (The Institute of Photonic Sciences), Barcelona, the Scientific Chair of the Graphene Pavilion.

Graphene datacom demo
This week, the Graphene Flagship is presenting the world’s first all-graphene optical communication link operating at a data rate of 25 Gb/s per channel. The key aspect of this demonstration is that all active electro-optical operations are performed by graphene devices.

On the transmitter side a graphene modulator encodes an electronic data stream onto an optical carrier, then transferred to the receiver through an optical fibre. The receiver contains a graphene photodetector that converts the incoming optical data signal back into an electronic signal. This first demonstration of data transmission at a speed of 25 Gb/s can be seen at the Graphene Pavilion.

Daniel Schall from AMO commented, “The current challenge for graphene photonics is to develop a fabrication technology that enables not only single devices with superior performance but mass production of millions of devices. With the all-graphene datalink we are taking a significant step towards this goal because we are demonstrating that devices made using volume production techniques are functional in a real configuration.”

His colleague Daniel Neumaier, leader of the Graphene Flagships Division on Electronics & Photonics Integration, added, “This demonstration of a state-of-the-art photonic data link is a significant step forward, as it demonstrates the system compatibility of an all graphene based solution.”

Mobile access
Seamless integration of graphene photonic components into existing communication environments is key for the next generation of data transfer. Ericsson is presenting the first graphene-based optical ultrafast interconnection in mobile access networks, with power efficient optical switching performance by overcoming the need of thermal control.

A first prototype of a functional graphene-based photonic switch, designed to be applicable in datacomms and 5G networks, will be showcased. The device works in an Ericsson testbed equipped with commercial 100 Gb/s transceivers cards and Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) network interconnection, operative in the C band and performing over 50 GHz fixed grid.

“The basic switch element showcased by Ericsson at Mobile World Congress 2018 aims to be a significant step towards enabling a wide range of advanced services over a feature-rich optical network, while keeping the overall cost low, increase transmission capacity, and reduce latency to the benefit of the telecom operators and their customers,” said Antonio D’Errico, Senior Researcher, Ericsson.

Professor Andrea Ferrari, Graphene Flagship Science & Technology Officer and Chair of its Management Panel, said, “The Graphene Flagship has identified graphene-based integrated photonics as one of the key areas for future growth and investment, and has developed a roadmap matching the technology readiness requirements with the datacom and telecom market demands.

“This year we are proud to present, as a results of a close collaboration between leading industrial and academic partners of the Flagship, the first viable examples of graphene-based integrated photonics. This could lead to ultra-high spatial density, low power consumption for board and intra datacenter connectivity, access networks, metro, core, regional and long-haul optical communications.”

Scitec Instruments LtdEclipse OpticsPhoton Engineering, LLCSynopsys, Optical Solutions GroupOcean InsightCobolt ABDelta Optical Thin Film A/S
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