The speed of data transfer in electronic equipment to increase tenfold

New optical technology for super computers and telecommunications

New optical data transfer technology is suitable for the mass production of electronics equipment, increasing the efficiency of the electronics devices many times over. According to several renowned electronics manufacturers, a breakthrough for optics in electronic devices is expected in a few years' time.

Just one optical channel on the electronics circuit board could revolutionise data processing, as it can increase the speed of data transfer tenfold while keeping vulnerability to disturbances very low. In co-operation with other companies and the Laboratory of Electronics Production Technology at the Helsinki University of Technology, VTT has developed a prototype of an optoelectronic circuit board, for which a data transfer bus with four channels, equalling 40 gigabits per second, was manufactured. The general perception internationally is that the current electronic data transfer speed of 1-3 gigabits per second, used in electronic circuit boards, is difficult to increase due to susceptibility to disturbances and the lack of physical space.

Transferring clock frequency using optical channels

The research lead by VTT focused on the development of optical data transfer buses for circuit boards that are suitable for mass production. This massive data transfer capacity will be introduced to circuit boards, with distances ranging from fractions of a millimetre to about one metre. Optical data transfer on circuit boards is useful especially in super computers, in demanding connections between data traffic base stations, as well as, for example, between computer processors and memory circuits. One demanding high frequency signal on the circuit board is known as the “clock frequency”, which corresponds to a speed of several gigabytes; transferring this from one part of a computer to another could be done using optical channels.

Minimal changes in assembly

A circuit board for test use was manufactured in the development project, the optical channels of which were designed in such a way that current circuit board manufacturers can produce them with only minor production changes. The aim is to implement optical data transfer on circuit boards in such a way that the changes required are as small as possible, also for the electronics assembly industry. Finns are at the international forefront of utilising optical data transfer.

The development project was funded by VTT, Tekes, Aplac Solutions, Aspocomp, Asperation, Perlos and Elcoteq Network. The Helsinki University of Technology also took part in the research. VTT will continue researching and developing optical data transfer within a network of top European scientists.


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