PASSION Project Attempts Using VCSELs for Ultra-High-Speed, Long-Distance Data Transmission

Vertical cavity surface emitting lasers or VCSELs are laser diodes that are inexpensive to make and more energy efficient than standard lasers. Now, a group of EU-funded researchers intends to use VCSELs to deliver ultra-high-speed broadband across long distances. This effort has the potential to end the data bottlenecks experienced in cities within Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) interlinking the growing number of users within a geographical area. Such data bottlenecks are only expected to increase over time.

Coordinated by the Politecnico di Milano in Italy, the €7.5m Horizon 2020 ‘Passion’ project plans to devise long-wavelength, high-capacity communications using VCSELs on silicon. While VCSELs are already used in data communications for short-distance, using such infrared lasers for increasing broadband data rates has never been done to connect cities.

PASSION Project Hopes to Achieve Transmission Rates of 112 Tbps with VCSELs

Members of the PASSION project team estimate that these ultra-fast components could achieve transmission rates of up to 112Tbps, or the equivalent of sending 28,000 HD movies in as little as one second. The researchers point out that in addition to much higher data rates a method with much lower energy consumption is also needed.

“VCSELs are a bit of a buzzword at the moment,” said the PASSION project’s coordinator, professor Pierpaolo Boffi.

“They [VCSELs] have the advantages of low driving current, high light-power conversion efficiency and high directivity. This makes them an ideal choice for transmitting huge amounts of data in a low-cost, energy-efficient way,” Boffi said.

“A 10-fold reduction in power consumption will be achieved by exploiting the full wavelength spectrum and the space dimension in a multi-core fiber,” Boffi added.

Now, the primary challenge is for the team to find a way to deploy VCSELs-on-silicon along with silicon photonics technology on a grand scale.

“We need a lighter and more flexible Internet with low energy consumption. Otherwise, the future internet costs will be unsustainable,” Boffi concluded.