The Ericsson-led IRIS project has produced a silicon photonics switch designed for housing thousands of optical circuits on a single chip.
The first chip is now in the test and characterization phase, and if successful the outcome will be major breakthrough for the industry, paving the way for a new generation of optical systems integrated in a single device.
Silicon photonics uses silicon as a miniaturized optical medium for transmitting and switching data at very high speeds, which reduces power consumption and footprint and increases capacity, which combined will lead to lower operational costs.
Co-funded by the European Commission as a Specific Target Research Project (STREP) under the Seventh Framework Programme for research and development (FP7), the IRIS project aims to create a high-capacity and reconfigurable WDM photonic switch using silicon photonics to monolithically integrate circuits in a single chip.
Such a chip will enable network operators to enhance the network performance, increasing node capacity as required by future 5G networks and Cloud. This can be achieved by high-scale integration of features, such as high-speed transmission, switching, and interconnectivity in the same chip.
The award winning Ericsson Hyperscale Datacenter System 8000 is an example where silicon photonics technology is being implemented already. With its optical interconnect, it brings major benefits to datacenter operators in terms of total cost of ownership.
Peter Christy, Research Director at 451 Research says; “Optical interconnection will play a critical role in data center evolution. Silicon photonics improves the cost and power efficiency very significantly. The Ericsson cloud initiative and HDS 8000 are early movers in the commercial exploitation of silicon photonics in the datacenter, and systems like this clearly demonstrate the technology’s potential.”
Researchers from Ericsson in Pisa have generated and filed all the relevant patent proposals.
The project consortium is led by Ericsson (Italy) and includes ST Microelectronics (Italy), CEA-LETI (France), CNIT (Italy), University of Trento (Italy), Universitat Politecnica de Valencia (Spain), Technische Universitat Wien (Austria) and Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (Republic of Korea).