SPIDER chip could help speed up the Web

Posted by Chris Nova

A new chip that requires little energy and runs at ultrafast speeds could eventually replace some of the power-hungry, expensive and bulky equipment which currently resides at the core of the Internet.

An international team of researchers, led by University of Sydney physicist Associate Professor David Moss, have created a chip that uses technology known as Spectral Phase Interferometry for Direct Electric-Field Reconstruction, or SPIDER.
    
According to Moss, the Internet uses high-speed signals that exploit the consistency of light to transmit information.

Up until now, the only way to precisely measure the intensity and phase of optical pulses was with bulky and expensive laboratory equipment.
    
"The ability to monitor and characterize these signals has, until now, been restricted to optical laboratories," explains Moss, a 2011 Eureka Prize finalist in the category Innovations in Computer Science.

"Using the SPIDER technology, applications such as telecommunications, high-precision broadband sensing and spectroscopy, metrology, molecular fingerprinting, optical clocks, and even attosecond physics, are all set for a major speed upgrade."

Not only does the processor use SPIDER technology, it integrates well with silicon computer chips. It is also fabbed the same way standard silicon chips are, so this makes it ideal for a wide range of applications.

Associate Professor Moss believes the SPIDER chip is capable of improving nearly all of the "pieces" that make up the Internet. Long distance fiber-optic networks and silicon routing chips will be able to measure state-of-the-art signals where the phase of light is used to encode information.

The paper detailing the "SPIDER chip" research, "Sub-picosecond phase-sensitive optical pulse characterization on a chip" is published in the August edition of the journal Nature Photonics.