Data Transmission at Record Rates, Better Food Inspection Technology, Space Laser Communication at O


Lyndsay Meyer


Washington, Feb. 14 – Whether it is over the Internet, landline or mobile phone, modern communication depends on optics – the science and technology of light.  Many new breakthroughs and innovations in fiber optics and associated technologies will be presented at OFC/NFOEC 2007 – the largest and most comprehensive international event for optical communications.

This year’s OFC/NFOEC (Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference) will take place at the Anaheim Convention Center between March 25 and 29.  More than 13,000 attendees are expected.

In addition to a technical conference that spans the whole meeting, there will be an exposition featuring the latest in optical technology from more than 600 of the industry’s key companies.  The meeting is sponsored by the IEEE Communications Society, the IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optics Society (LEOS), and the Optical Society of America (OSA). 


The following topics represent some of the technical highlights at OFC/NFOEC 2007. 

DATA LINKS TRANSMITTING AND RECEIVING AT UNPRECEDENTED RATES A new IBM transceiver, an integrated device which can transmit and receive record-breaking amounts of high-speed data in optical form, has been developed.  The transmitting part of the device consists of 16 vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs), lasers that emit light from the face of a semiconductor chip rather than from the cleaved edge of the chip. Each laser is capable of modulating a continuous laser beam at a rate in excess of 10 billion times per second (a record for individual devices in a transceiver), for a total data-sending rate of 160 Gigabits per second (Gb/s).  The 16-channel receiving part of the device operates at the same speed, for a simultaneous data-receiving rate of 160 Gb/s. The optical channels carrying the data can be either fibers or optical waveguides printed on a circuit board.  Not only is the single-channel data rate unprecedented, but the power dissipation (15.6 mW/Gb/s) and the density (9.4 Gb/mm^2) are also unprecedented and key figures of merit.  IBM is developing this transceiver as part of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)-sponsored chip-to-chip program designed to speed up communications between supercomputers.  Clint Schow of IBM will announce details of this work at the OFC meeting. (Paper OThG4, “160-Gb/s, 16-Channel Full-Duplex, Single-Chip CMOS Optical Transceiver”)

A new light source based on fiber optic technology promises to improve the inspection of food, produce, paper, currency, recyclables and other products.  Industrial processes for inspecting foodstuffs and other items often use “line-scan” cameras, which record images of objects one line at a time, just as fax machines scan documents on a line-by-line basis.  Light sources for line-scan cameras should ideally combine several features: uniform, intense illumination over a rectangular region; a directional beam that avoids wasting unused light by only illuminating the rectangle; precise wavelength control for multispectral analysis; and a “cool” source that does not heat up the objects to be imaged. At least one of these features is lacking in conventional light sources such as tungsten halogen lamps or arrays of light-emitting diodes.

Now, Princeton Lightwave Inc. of Cranbury, N.J. and OFS Labs (a Furukawa division based in Somerset, N.J.) have introduced a fiber optics-based solution.  In their design, a bright light source such as a laser sends light through an optical fiber.  Along the length of the fiber is an ultraviolet-light-treated region called a “fiber grating.” The grating deflects the light so that it exits perpendicularly to the length of the fiber as a long, expanding rectangle of light. This optical rectangle is then collimated by a cylindrical lens, such that the rectangle illuminates objects of interest at various distances from the source. The bright rectangle allows line-scan cameras to sort products at higher speeds with improved accuracy. (Paper OThP1, “FBG Based Distributed Lighting for Sensing Applications”)

Future space probes will be able to beam information back to Earth from as far as other planets using lasers. The technology promises to transmit data nearly ten times faster than the fastest radio communication links, and faster than a cable modem, and could be a crucial component of a series of increasingly sophisticated Mars missions, including manned exploration. New fiber-optic-based amplifying technology allows the conversion of electronic data into laser beams with higher efficiency -- a significant factor on spacecraft, where every watt of power is precious. The new advances are a crucial step toward demonstrating the viability of deep-space laser communication; in near-earth lasercom systems, they will result in higher performance with smaller size, weight, power, and cost. (Paper OMF2, “A High-Efficiency Ytterbium-Doped Fiber Amplifier Designed for Interplanetary Laser Communications”)

Traditionally, high bandwidth signals (40 Gb/s) could only be transmitted over approximately six kilometers of standard optical fibers without optical devices to compensate for the fibers’ inherent limits, such as the chromatic dispersion which results in the separation of the different optical frequencies of the signal. A British team has developed a transmission method based on a spectrally-efficient modulation format and electronic digital dispersion compensation, which they showed can increase the range to more than 6,000 kilometers. The technology also will allow for 40 Gb/s to be transmitted over older optical fibers, which would otherwise only be able to accommodate lower bandwidth signals. (Paper OTuA1, “Transmission of 42.8Gbit/s Polarization Multiplexed NRZ-QPSK over 6400km of Standard Fiber with no Optical Dispersion Compensation”)

Hitachi researchers have developed new components that could also help increase the range of high-bandwidth transmission at a low cost. The components are optical resonators based on silicon instead of ordinary glass. The higher refractive index of silicon means optical resonators can be smaller in size, which in turn means narrower laser beams can be used, leading to less dispersion over long distances. (Paper OThC3, “A Tunable Dispersion Compensator with Highly Refractive Silicon Etalons”)

Another Japanese team has developed a new kind of interferometer for measuring dispersion with high precision, which could help in the development of new materials for ultrafast fiber optics. (Paper OThO1, “Single-Shot Fiber Dispersionmetry”)

Bringing fiber-optic Internet and video-on-demand access directly to the home has the potential to vastly increase bandwidth over DSL or cable. Availability in the United States has so far lagged that in other industrialized countries such as Japan, but millions of U.S. homes are now starting to have fiber as an option. A panel discussion will examine state-of-the-art fiber-to-the-home technologies as well as proposals for future fiber optic standards that could increase bandwidth to as much as 10 Gb/s, or 10,000 times faster than a typical DSL connection. (See: FTTX: New Directions)


The OFC/NFOEC 2007 Plenary Session will take place on Tuesday, March 27.

Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of the non-profit organization One Laptop per Child, will lead the discussion, “Networks without Operators.” He will explain how the state of telecommunications is changing, including how the Internet is proof that man-made systems can emerge from the bottom up like natural phenomena. He will also discuss his organization’s plan to develop $100 laptop computers.

Mark Wegleitner, senior vice president of Technology and Network Planning and chief technology officer of Verizon Communications, will present “Maximizing the Impact of Optical Technology.” He will discuss how the demand for higher bandwidth applications for business and residential services has impacted the development of optical technology to the point where in-home optical networks are now both practical and economical.

Chongcheng (C.C.) Fan, vice director of the Professional Group of Optical Communication at the Chinese Institute of Communications will present “Optical Fiber Communications in Mainland China: Activities and Visions of Carriers, Equipment Vendors and Academia.” Fan will discuss the fast-growing telephone, mobile phone and Internet industries in China, including the challenges service providers face in generating more revenue and profit.


Since 1985, the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition (OFC) has provided an annual backdrop for the optical communications field to network and share research and innovations. In 2004, OFC joined forces with the National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference (NFOEC) creating the largest and most comprehensive international event for optical communications. By combining an exposition of more than 600 companies with a unique program of peer-reviewed technical programming and special focused educational sessions, OFC/NFOEC provides an unparalleled opportunity, reaching every audience from service providers to optical equipment manufacturers and beyond.

OFC/NFOEC,, is managed by the Optical Society of America (OSA) and co-sponsored by OSA, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers/Communications Society (IEEE/ComSoc) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers/Lasers and Electro-Optics Society (IEEE/LEOS). Acting as a non-financial technical co-sponsor is Telcordia Technologies, Inc.




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