Paving the way to technological singularity

Medical AI and doctors at earth stations could remotely conduct a zero-gravity operation aboard a space plane connected via terahertz wireless links.
CREDIT:
HIROSHIMA UNIVERSITY, NICT, PANASONIC, AND 123RF.COM

Hiroshima University, National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, and Panasonic Corporation announced the successful development of a terahertz (THz) transceiver that can transmit or receive digital data at 80 gigabits per second (Gbit/s).

The transceiver was implemented using silicon CMOS integrated circuit technology, which would have a great advantage for volume production. Details of the technology will be presented at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) 2019 to be held from February 17 to February 21 in San Francisco, California [1].

The THz band is a new and vast frequency resource expected to be used for future ultrahigh-speed wireless communications. IEEE Standard 802.15.3d, published in October 2017, defines the use of the lower THz frequency range between 252 gigahertz (GHz) and 325 GHz (the “300-GHz band”) as high-speed wireless communication channels. The research group has developed a single-chip transceiver that achieves a communication speed of 80 Gbit/s using the channel 66 defined by the Standard. The research group developed a 300-GHz-band transmitter chip capable of 105 Gbit/s [2] and a receiver chip capable of 32 Gbit/s [3] in the past few years. The group has now integrated a transmitter and a receiver into a single transceiver chip.

“We presented a CMOS transmitter that could do 105 Gbit/s in 2017, but the performance of receivers we developed, or anybody else did for that matter, were way behind [3] for a reason. We can use a technique called ‘power combining’ in transmitters for performance boosting, but the same technique cannot be applied to receivers. An ultrafast transmitter is useless unless an equally fast receiver is available. We have finally managed to bring the CMOS receiver performance close to 100 Gbit/s,” said Prof. Minoru Fujishima, Graduate School of Advanced Sciences of Matter, Hiroshima University.

“People talk a lot about technological singularity these days. The main point of interest seems to be whether artificial superintelligence will appear. But a more meaningful question to ask myself as an engineer is how we can keep the ever-accelerating technological advancement going. That’s a prerequisite. Advances in not only computational power but also in communication speed and capacity within and between computers are vitally important. You wouldn’t want to have a zero-grav operation on board a space plane without real-time connection with earth stations staffed by medical super-AI and doctors. After all, singularity is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s not something some genius out there will make happen all of a sudden. It will be a distant outcome of what we develop today and tomorrow,” said Prof. Fujishima.

“Of course, there still is a long way to go, but I hope we are steadily paving the way to such a day. And don’t you worry you might use up your ten-gigabyte monthly quota within hours, because your monthly quota then will be in terabytes,” he added.

Learn more: Terahertz wireless makes big strides in paving the way to technological singularity

 

 

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New laser frequency combs could solve the bandwidth problem for true terahertz wireless communications

Inside an infrared frequency comb in a quantum cascade laser, the different frequencies of light beat together to generate microwave radiation. (Illustration courtesy of Jared Sisler/Harvard University)

Wi-Fi and cellular data traffic are increasing exponentially but, unless the capacity of wireless links can be increased, all that traffic is bound to lead to unacceptable bottlenecks.

Upcoming 5G networks are a temporary fix but not a long-term solution. For that, researchers have focused on terahertz frequencies, the submillimeter wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. Data traveling at terahertz frequencies could move hundreds of times faster than today’s wireless.

In 2017, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) discovered that an infrared frequency comb in a quantum cascade laser could offer a new way to generate terahertz frequencies. Now, those researchers have uncovered a new phenomenon of quantum cascade laser frequency combs, which would allow these devices to act as integrated transmitters or receivers that can efficiently encode information.

The research is published in Optica.

“This work represents a complete paradigm shift for the way a laser can be operated,” said Federico Capasso, the Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering and senior author of the paper. “This new phenomenon transforms a laser — a device operating at optical frequencies — into an advanced modulator at microwave frequencies, which has a technological significance for efficient use of bandwidth in communication systems.”

This work represents a complete paradigm shift for the way a laser can be operated.

Frequency combs are widely-used, high-precision tools for measuring and detecting different frequencies — a.k.a. colors — of light. Unlike conventional lasers, which emit a single frequency, these lasers emit multiple frequencies simultaneously, evenly spaced to resemble the teeth of a comb. Today, optical frequency combs are used for everything from measuring the fingerprints of specific molecules to detecting distant exoplanets.

This research, however, wasn’t interested in the optical output of the laser.

“We were interested in what was going on inside the laser, in the laser’s electron skeleton,” said Marco Piccardo, a postdoctoral fellow at SEAS and first author of the paper.  “We showed, for the first time, that a laser at optical wavelengths can operate as a microwave device.”

Inside the laser, the different frequencies of light beat together to generate microwave radiation. The researchers discovered that light inside the cavity of the laser causes electrons to oscillate at microwave frequencies — which are within the communications spectrum. These oscillations can be externally modulated to encode information onto a carrier signal.

“This functionality has never been demonstrated in a laser before,” said Piccardo. “We have shown that the laser can act as a so-called quadrature modulator, allowing two different pieces of information to be sent simultaneously through a single frequency channel and successively be retrieved at the other end of a communication link.”

“Currently, terahertz sources have serious limitations due to limited bandwidth,” said Capasso. “This discovery opens up an entirely new aspect of frequency combs and could lead, in the near future, to a terahertz source for wireless communications.”

Learn more: Laser frequency combs may be the future of Wi-Fi

 

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Terahertz wireless breakthrough enables data rates 10 times or more faster than that offered by 5G

Terahertz wireless links to spaceborne satellites could make gigabit-per-second connection speeds available to anyone anytime, anywhere on the face of the earth, on the ground or in flight. Credit: Fujishima et al. (Hiroshima University)

Hiroshima University, National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, and Panasonic Corporation announced the development of a terahertz (THz) transmitter capable of transmitting digital data at a rate exceeding 100 gigabits (= 0.1 terabit) per second over a single channel using the 300-GHz band. This technology enables data rates 10 times or more faster than that offered by the fifth-generation mobile networks (5G) expected to appear around 2020.

Details of the technology will be presented at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) 2017 to be held from February 5 to February 9 in San Francisco, California.

The THz band is a vast new frequency resource expected to be used for future ultra-high-speed communications. The research group has developed a transmitter that achieves a communication speed of 105 gigabits per second using the frequency range from 290 GHz to 315 GHz. This range of frequencies is currently unallocated, but fall within the frequency range from 275 GHz to 450 GHz, whose usage is to be discussed at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) 2019. Last year, the group demonstrated that the speed of a wireless link in the 300-GHz band could be greatly enhanced by using (QAM). This year, they showed a six times higher per-channel data rate exceeding 100 gigabits per second for the first time as an integrated-circuit-based transmitter. At this data rate, the contents of an entire DVD can be transferred in a fraction of a second.

“This year, we developed a transmitter with 10 times higher transmission power than the previous versions. This made possible a per-channel data rate above 100 Gbit/s at 300 GHz,” said Prof. Minoru Fujishima, Graduate School of Advanced Sciences of Matter, Hiroshima University. “We usually talk about wireless data rates in megabits per second or gigabits per second. But we are now approaching terabits per second using a single communication channel. Fiber optics realized ultra-high-speed wired links, and wireless links have been left far behind. Terahertz could offer ultra-high-speed links to satellites as well, which can only be wireless. That could, in turn, significantly boost in-flight network connection speeds, for example. Other possible applications include fast download from content servers to mobile devices and ultrafast wireless links between base stations,” said Prof. Fujishima.

Learn more: Terahertz wireless could make spaceborne satellite links as fast as fiber-optic links

 

 

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Key component for wireless communication with terahertz frequencies

Figure 1. The THz wave (green) and the laser light (red) are both split in half by the beam splitter (grey plane), providing the necessary phase shift of the waves. The laser light is mixed with THz radiation in special crystals (brown planes), and subsequently two sidebands (blue waves) are generated. Both laser light modulations are then coupled in the grey cylinders in optic fibre (tan wires) and combined in the multimode interference structure (white MMI plane). The result is that one sideband extinguishes and that the intensity of the other sideband is maximised, solving the problem of THz signal distortion in the optic fibre network.

Figure 1. The THz wave (green) and the laser light (red) are both split in half by the beam splitter (grey plane), providing the necessary phase shift of the waves. The laser light is mixed with THz radiation in special crystals (brown planes), and subsequently two sidebands (blue waves) are generated. Both laser light modulations are then coupled in the grey cylinders in optic fibre (tan wires) and combined in the multimode interference structure (white MMI plane). The result is that one sideband extinguishes and that the intensity of the other sideband is maximised, solving the problem of THz signal distortion in the optic fibre network.

An ultrahigh speed, wireless communication network using THz instead of GHz frequencies is now one step closer. Researchers at Radboud University’s FELIX Laboratory have shown that it is possible to effectively transmit signal waves with THz frequencies through the existing fibre optic network.

HD television, big data, the internet of things and social media have considerably increased the data rate of our wireless communication network, and continue to do so. An obvious way to facilitate this network growth is to use terahertz frequencies (THz, 1012 Hertz) with high-speed data rates of up to 100 Gbit/s. Current wireless data communication systems operate at an average speed of 100Mbi/s using microwave frequencies around one gigahertz (GHz, 109 Hertz). For instance: GPS systems work with 1,3 GHz frequencies, wifi with 2,4 and 5 GHz, and your microwave with 2,45 GHz. In the search for free frequencies, the unexplored THz area is of great interest.

Distortion of terahertz signals

For wireless THz surfing on the Internet, it is necessary to connect THz wireless stations to the worldwide fibre optic network. However, existing microwave techniques do not operate at THz frequencies. “THz is a difficult frequency region, because it is both electronic and optic at the same time,” FELIX researcher Giel Berden explains. “It is too low for normal optics, and too high for standard electronics.” Moreover, THz signal waves in the fibre optic network are scrambled, because standard modulation of laser light generates two sidebands (colours) that interfere with one another. Optical Single Side Band (OSSB) is a method to prevent this scrambling of information by selectively extinguishing one sideband.

Special beam splitter

Scientists at Radboud University’s FELIX Laboratory developed an OSSB modulator that enables wireless THz waves to be transmitted unperturbed through the fibre network. First author Afric Meijer explains: “With a specially designed beam splitter that splits both the THz waves and the infrared laser light in half, one of the two sidebands is reduced by a factor of over sixty, while the other sideband’s intensity increases significantly.” The special modulator (figure 1) does not contain any moving parts or colour filters, and operates over an ultra-wide bandwidth from 0.3 to 1 THz.

The THz OSSB modulator is a by-product of the research by TeraOptronics on the THz laser FLARE (Free-electron Laser for Advanced spectroscopy and high-Resolution Experiments) at Radboud University. “The apparatus to determine the colour of FLARE’s laser light was exactly what was needed to observe THz OSSB,” Meijer explains. “Both the special THz laser FLARE and Afric’s interest to expand communication with THz frequencies were imperative to make an impact in this field that was new to us,” says co-author Wim van de Zande, currently Director of Research at ASML.

Opportunities for ultra HD, virtual reality and big data

As THz signals in the air are strongly absorbed by water vapour, wireless THz communication will mostly be used for relatively short distances. Meijer: “Our THz OSSB modulator allows us to use the existing fibre optic network. Ultra HD and Virtual Reality images can be received or transmitted wirelessly through a THz link, just like the petabytes of data in research institutes and hospitals.” Berden: “This publication is a proof of principle. To actually use the technique requires a couple of additional steps, for instance scaling down the design for microfabrication and improvements in efficiency. Our hope is that this idea will be further developed by the industry.”

Learn more: Key component for wireless communication with terahertz frequencies

 

 

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Terahertz wireless technology could bring one hundred gigabits per second speeds out of a fiber

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Hiroshima University, the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, and Panasonic Corporation announced the development of a terahertz (THz) transmitter capable of signal transmission at a per-channel data rate of over ten gigabits per second over multiple channels at around 300 GHz. The aggregate multi-channel data rate exceeds one hundred gigabits per second. The transmitter was implemented as a silicon CMOS integrated circuit, which would have a great advantage for commercialization and consumer use.

This technology could open a new frontier in wireless communication with data rates ten times higher than current technology allows.

Details of the technology were presented at the “International Solid-State Circuit Conference (ISSCC) 2016,” held from January 31 to February 4 in San Francisco, California.

The THz band is a new and vast frequency resource not currently exploited for wireless communications. Its frequencies are even higher than those used by the millimeter-wave wireless local area network (from 57 GHz to 66 GHz), and the available bandwidths are much wider.

Since the speed of a wireless link is proportional to the bandwidth in use, THz is ideally suited to ultrahigh-speed communications.

The research group has developed a transmitter that covers the frequency range from 275 GHz to 305 GHz. This frequency range is currently unallocated, and its future frequency allocation is to be discussed at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) 2019 under the International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R).

Today, most wireless communication technologies use lower frequencies (5 GHz or below) with high-order digital modulation schemes, such as the quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM), to enhance data rates within limited bandwidths available. The research group has successfully demonstrated that QAM is feasible at 300 GHz with CMOS and that THz wireless technology could offer a serious boost in wireless communication speed.

“Now THz wireless technology is armed with very wide bandwidths and QAM-capability. The use of QAM was a key to achieving 100 gigabits per second at 300 GHz,” said Prof. Minoru Fujishima, Graduate School of Advanced Sciences of Matter, Hiroshima University.

“Today, we usually talk about wireless data-rates in megabits per second or gigabits per second. But I foresee we’ll soon be talking about terabits per second. That’s what THz wireless technology offers. Such extreme speeds are currently confined in optical fibers. I want to bring fiber-optic speeds out into the air, and we have taken an important step toward that goal,” he added.

The research group plans to further develop 300-GHz ultrahigh-speed wireless circuits.

“We plan to develop receiver circuits for the 300-GHz band as well as modulation and demodulation circuits that are suitable for ultrahigh-speed communications,” said Prof. Fujishima.

Learn more: Terahertz wireless technology could bring fiber-optic speeds out of a fiber

 

 

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