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Breakthrough enables Terabit Ethernet

A year ago, we talked about reaching for Terabit Ethernet, the next power-of-10 increase in speed over the state of the art today. Now, researchers have demonstrated one way to do that.

In a paper published in the Feb. 16 edition of Optics Express, the researchers detail their approach for de-multiplexing signals at high speeds, claiming that they were able to achieve 640Gbps over fiber-optic lines with no errors.

The material they used in the chip is chalcogenide, and Australian researchers were talking about the high-speed networking possibilities of the material last summer. Calling it “just a piece of scratched glass,” they said it could potentially be cheap to produce.

At these bit rates, the researchers say that it is only possible to perform switching with an all-optical system, using optical time-division multiplexing. And chalcogenide allows for “femtosecond response time” (now that's fast). The nature of the material means that it only needs to be 5 centimeters long for it to work, so it's nicely compact.

Recently, Sreedhar Kajeepeta, a CTO at CSC, wrote about how a Terabit Ethernet could be used. Presumably, it would not just be used for aggregating lower-speed links, but would inspire us to reach higher, to new applications, perhaps to something called Augmented Reality. That application is where real-life video and audio are combined with virtual video and audio.

History has taught us that we will find a way to fill up the pipe, but don't look for Terabit Ethernet to your desktop anytime soon.

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