"We will be prototyping a compact, optical arbitrary waveform generator capable of communicating at unprecedented bandwidth, potentially 10 thousand times faster than the fastest commercial communications system today," said co-principal investigator S.J. Ben Yoo, professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the UC Davis Center for Information Technology Research in the Interests of Society.
Optical and radio communications devices generate a carrier wave of a specific frequency, for example the transmission frequency of a radio station. The amount of information, or bandwidth, carried by the wave can only be a fraction of that frequency. Optical communications links can carry far more information than radio because light waves have a much higher frequency than radio waves. The DARPA project aims to investigate how to use and manipulate the high carrier frequencies of mid-infrared light most effectively, Yoo said.
Yoo's research group will use technology invented at UC Davis to design, build and test thumbnail-sized chips that can potentially encode data at rates up to 100 terahertz, 10 thousand times faster than devices currently available. The MIT group, led by Professor Erich Ippen, will build devices to generate the high-frequency carrier wave.
Apart from high-speed communications, the technology could also be applied for light-based radar devices or "ladar," capable of very high resolution scanning; medical imaging; or in devices for synthesizing very rich electronic tones, Yoo said.
The other UC Davis investigators in the project are Jonathan Heritage and Anh-Vu Pham, both professors in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The commercial partners are Inphi Inc. of Westlake Village, Calif., and Multiplex Inc. and Inplane Photonics Inc., both of South Plainfield, N.J.
The new project, which will fund an additional 15 researchers at UC Davis and others at the industrial partners, grew out of another DARPA-funded project on optical communications technology awarded to Yoo and collaborators in 2002.