The modern internet is—at its core—a complex network of cables and routers known as the internet backbone. This system is responsible for transmitting incredible amounts of data across the world every second of every day. In July 2021, Japanese researchers achieved a whopping 319 terabytes per second (Tb/s) across a fiber optic cable. As recently announced in Nature Photonics, researchers have hit another milestone in the quest for fast, extremely large data transfers. Using a laser and a single optical chip system, data was transmitted at a whopping 1.8 petabits per second. That's the equivalent of transmitting the traffic on the internet across a single second.
Fiber optic cables pass data through light. Here, a specially designed chip receives the light of the laser. It then sorts and separates the frequencies of the light. In this way, the chip acts as a comb, and the frequencies emanate from it like teeth. The more teeth, the more data is transmitted. This cable had 37 cores, each with 233 frequencies per core. Through modulation, each frequency undulates the light to represent to 0s and 1s which compose data.
At present, the development has only been tested with fake data. Computers need to further develop to produce or receive this amount of data. However, technology is rapidly advancing in the field of fiber optics. The researcher's results suggest scaling up will be quite possible.
“Our solution provides a potential for replacing hundreds of thousands of the lasers located at internet hubs and data centers, all of which guzzle power and generate heat,” said Leif Katsuo Oxenløwe of the Technical University of Denmark. While this data transmission record may be pioneering at present, it may be a routine part of our internet in the future.