Research highlight

Time-domain telescope

Nature Photonics

September 28, 2009

Electronic data can be moved 27 times faster than in present state-of-the-art systems by using a photonic device ― a time-domain telescope ― that 'magnifies' the speed. The work, published online this week in Nature Photonics, may prove useful for on-chip photonic integrated circuits and high-speed optical communication.

As the demand for faster data rates continues to grow, the electronics industry is struggling to keep up and faces problems both with increasing power consumption and concerns over the feasibility of data rates of 100?gigabits per second or more. Alexander Gaeta and colleagues demonstrate a photonic scheme that gets around this problem by compressing packets of data that are formed by simple and cheap electronics so that they can be transported at ultrafast rates that would otherwise not be possible. They call it a time-domain telescope, because its principle of operation is similar to how a conventional telescope magnifies images, but it magnifies time instead. The device uses two silicon structures that guide the light and act as lenses, magnifying or increasing the speed of the data packets from 10 gigabits per second to 270 gigabits per second.

doi: 10.1038/nphoton.2009.169

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