Improving optical communication for faster data traffic
Graphene-enabled photonics to replace silicon
Graphene Flagship Associated Member CamGraPhiC’s mission is to boost optical telecommunications for several fields, such as 5G and edge computing, to support optical telecommunications, advanced sensors, artificial intelligence, quantum photonics, and space applications, among others.
In this interview, CamGraPhiC’s CTO Alessio Pirastu describes his vision on photonic circuits for telecoms and datacoms beyond silicon.
What are industrial expectations in managing online data traffic?
Global data traffic is increasing exponentially. Ericsson and Cisco predicted there will be more than 10 billion devices and 3 billion new 5G users in the next few years. All these people are expecting faster and faster services. On the other hand, we see so-called data traffic bottlenecks, in particular environments such as data centres and 5G infrastructures. These problems stem from the optical connectivity between systems, such as data exchange between servers in data centres, and connections among multiple CPUs or processors in edge computing platforms.
Industries are expecting next-generation devices to improve optical communications and the optical links between systems. Important requirements for the next-generation components are high speed, small size, low cost, low power consumption and flexibility. CamGraPhiC is developing graphene-integrated photonics to satisfy all of these requirements.
Why did you decide to rely on graphene?
We want to take advantage of the physical properties of graphene to reach the functionalities and performance required by the industry. Graphene integrated photonics can offer four important benefits. The first is high bandwidth density (i.e. high speed in a small form-factor). The second is the cost. Graphene is a scalable technology that can be wafer processed, taking advantage of silicon photonics technologies. It does not need particular and expensive fabrication processes. The third is related to the fact that graphene can operate with low electrical signals and without cooling systems. This leads to low power consumption, very important to making these technologies sustainable. The fourth is that with the same design we can fit several optical layers on the same chip and increase traffic capacity.
What are you working on at the moment?
We are now developing the first building block in order to demonstrate the capabilities of graphene integrated photonics. Our customers can use our demo platform to test our devices. We are working on electro-absorption modulators and detectors with integrated electronics, working at 50 gigabits per second. Our next target is to produce a device working at 100 gigabits per second per optical lane. Then we will integrate multiple optical lanes and be the first in the market to deliver 1600 gigabits per second, which can be applied to 5G and data centres.