Optical Chip
© Monash, RMIT, Swinburne universities.
Australian researchers say they have successfully tested and recorded the world's fastest internet speed from a single optical chip.

In a paper in the journal Nature Communications, they report achieving a data speed of 44.2 Terabits per second (Tbps) from a single light source - enough to download a thousand high-definition movies in a split second.

And they did it not in a lab but using existing communications infrastructure.

"We've developed something that is scalable to meet future needs," says co-lead author Bill Corcoran from Monash University. "And it's not just Netflix we're talking about here: it's the broader scale of what we use our communication networks for."

The project was a collaboration between Monash and two other Melbourne-based universities - Swinburne and RMIT - and utilised an optical device known as a micro-comb, which was added to 76.6 kilometres of optical fibres installed between two city campuses.

The micro-comb acts like a rainbow made up of hundreds of high-quality infrared lasers from a single chip, the researchers say. Each "laser" has the capacity to be used as a separate communications channel.

They were able to send maximum data down each channel, simulating peak internet usage, across 4THz of bandwidth - and reaching the optimum data speed of 44.2 Tbps.

"Long term, we hope to create integrated photonic chips that could enable this sort of data rate to be achieved across existing optical fibre links with minimal cost," says RMIT's Arnan Mitchell.

"Initially, these would be attractive for ultra-high-speed communications between data centres. However, we could imagine this technology becoming sufficiently low cost and compact that it could be deployed for commercial use by the general public in cities across the world."