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High-Efficiency Data Transfer

Princeton Optronics

Ultra-High Speed VCSELs for Optical Communication

Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$1,120,000
Location: 
Mercerville, NJ
Project Term: 
02/26/2016 to 09/30/2017
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
The explosive growth of the internet has been accompanied by a similar increase in the amount of data that is transmitted and processed. Much of the burden of this growth has been shouldered by datacenters, one of the largest and fastest growing consumers of electricity in the country. Datacenters in 2013 consumed an estimated 91 terawatt-hours of electricity, enough to power all the households in New York City twice over. This is about 2.5% of electricity produced in the United States, and with data traffic projected to increase 23% annually over the next five years, datacenters' energy consumption is projected to double in about eight years. Increased bandwidth is needed to accommodate the anticipated growth in traffic. However, simply increasing the bandwidth with current communication systems would result in reduced efficiency and increased waste heat. Immediate solutions are needed to reduce the bandwidth bottleneck while increasing efficiency.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Princeton Optronics will develop a new device architecture for optical interconnect links, which communicate using optical fibers that carry light. The maximum speed and power consumption requirement of data communication lasers have not changed significantly over the last decade, and state-of-the-art commercial technology delivers only 30 Gigabits per second (Gb/s). Increasing this speed has been difficult because the current devices are limited by resistance and capacitance constraints. Princeton Optronics will develop a novel device architecture to improve the data transfer and reduce the power consumption per bit by a factor of 10. They will use their expertise in vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) to design and build unique quantum wells - and increase the speed and lower the power consumption. The team aims to demonstrate speeds greater than 50 Gb/s, and perhaps 250 Gb/s devices in the future.
Potential Impact: 
If successful, innovations from this project could dramatically improve the cost and efficiency of optical interconnect technology and our ability to transmit greater amounts of data more efficiently.
Security: 
Faster data communications will enhance national defense, security, and resiliency.
Environment: 
Increasing the energy efficiency of data communications would mitigate a significant amount of CO2 emissions.
Economy: 
Implementing the team's technologies could save large amounts of power and the increased performance and bandwidth of optical networks will improve economic productivity.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Michael Haney
Project Contact: 
Dr. Delai Zhou
Release Date: 
11/23/2015