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Boffins unveil ‘instant download’ chip

Hundred gigabytes per second electronic-to-optic data conversion rate claimed

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Scientists from the Universities of Washington and Southern Carolina have devised an optical chip that promises to make the transmission of data down cables practically instantaneous. The device, dubbed the Opto Chip, but known more formally as an electro-optic modulator, converts electrical signals into pulses of light which can then be squirted down a fibre-optic cable. Nothing new in that, it's true, but the researcher's device is capable of converting signals at a rate of 100GB per second at very low voltages, according to research lead Larry Dalton. Testers at California-based Tacan found that the new opto-chip uses less than 1V to convert electronic cable TV signals into optical signals. "These electro-optic modulators will permit real-time communication," said Dalton. "You won't have to wait for your computer to download even the largest files." "We'll be able to take telephone signals, computer data, TV signals - any type of signal you can think of - put it on fibre-optic, route it around the world with almost no optical signal loss, and accomplish this with infinite bandwidth,'' he added. Reporting on the device in the journal Science, Dalton and co. built the opto chip out of optically-active organic molecules called chromospheres embedded in plastic. Essentially, the chromospheres react optically to a changing electric field, the only snag, each molecule's output interferes with the output of all the others. Dalton and team's research led them to a method of changing the chromospheres' shape to minimise the effect of the interference. ® Related Stories Optical IEEE 1394 does 100m in 400Mbps Say hello to hologram RAM Boffins beat Moore's Law with quantum magic Storage tech boffins to demo 140GB 'CD-ROM' Big Blue boffins make big storage breakthrough IBM researchers unveil 0.08 micron chip process Boffins to unveil 4.5GHz CPU breakthrough

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