An Ericsson-led research project has developed a silicon photonics switch designed for housing thousands of optical circuits on a single chip. The silicon photonics chip increases bandwidth, reduces cost and enables optical routing in the cloud and 5G networks. The chip is currently in the testing and characterization phase and if successful, the industry may be able to create a new generation of optical systems integrated in a single device.

For metro networks, the switch is expected to enable flexibility, energy efficiency, very small footprint, low cost and fast reconfigurability (in the microsecond range) and could empower future software defined networking (SDN). The architecture is also suitable for data center networking. The chip features photonics component density (more than 1,000 on less than 30 mm2 chip area) controlled by more than 2,000 electronic building blocks.

The IRIS project was created to innovate a high-capacity and reconfigurable WDM photonics switch using silicon photonics to monolithically integrate circuits in a single chip. The chip has the potential to enable network operators to enhance network performance and increase node capacity, necessary for future 5G networks and the cloud. Key to the innovation is the high-scale integration of features such as high-speed transmission, switching and single-chip interconnectivity.

The project, led by Ericsson, also includes ST Microelectronics, CEA-LETI, CNIT, University of Trento, Universitat Politecnica de Valencia, Technische Universitat Wien and Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute. It is also co-funded by the European Commission as a Specific Target Research Project (STREP).

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