Breaking the Internet's glass ceiling

9 July 2008

Professor Ben Eggleton (foreground) holding a photonic chip with (from left) student Neil Baker and researcher Snjezana Tomljenovic-Hanic
Professor Ben Eggleton (foreground) holding a photonic chip with (from left) student Neil Baker and researcher Snjezana Tomljenovic-Hanic

It has taken four years to develop but now, due to a small scratch on a piece of glass, University of Sydney scientists say our Internet is set to become 60 times faster than current Telstra networks.

The scratch will mean almost instantaneous, error free and unlimited access to the Internet anywhere in the world,CUDOS (Centre for Ultra-high bandwith Devices for Optical Systems) announced today at the Opto-Electronics and Communications Conference (OECC).

"This is a critical building block and a fundamental advance on what is already out there. We are talking about networks that are potentially up to 100 times faster without costing the consumer any more," says Federation Fellow Professor Ben Eggleton, Director of CUDOS, based within the School of Physics at the University of Sydney.

Eggleton, whose team beat their deadline by a year, says that up until now information has been moving at a slow rate but optical fibres have a huge capacity to deliver more. "The scratched glass we've developed is actually a Photonic Integrated Circuit," he says.

"This circuit uses the 'scratch' as a guide or a switching path for information - kind of like when trains are switched from one track to another - except this switch takes only one picosecond to change tracks. This means that in one second the switch is turning on and off about one million million times. We are talking about photonic technology that has terabit per second capacity."

This initial demonstration proves it is possible to achieve speeds 60 times faster than current Australian Networks. With further development, the process is likely to produce even faster results.

"Currently we use electronics for our switching and that has been OK but as we move toward a more tech-savvy future there is a demand for instant web gratification. Photonic technology delivers what's needed and, more importantly, what's wanted."

Based on a highly fruitful scientific collaboration between CUDOS teams at the University of Sydney and the Australian National University, with the Technical University of Denmark and supported with Australian Research Council (ARC) funding, CUDOS' research was presented in a paper delivered at the OECC today.

Contact: Kath Kenny

Phone: (02) 9351 2261 or 0434 606 100