Anders Larsson, Professor of Photonics and head of the Photonics Laboratory, is principal investigator (PI), for the new research environment which now has been granted 23,988,000 SEK from the Swedish Research Council. His project "Integrated WDM Transmitters for Ultra-High Capacity Datacenter Connectivity". His project is about methods to increase communication capacity in the data centers where all information sent over the Internet is stored and processed.
"While more and more cloud-based and bandwidth-intensive services grow, these data centers are developing into huge installations that require communication with a capacity that can only be met by fiber optics. In these networks, data is sent on one wavelength per fiber", says Anders Larsson.
Leading research environment
Co-applicants and research leaders of the project are Victor Torres Company, Associate Professor of Photonics, Magnus Karlsson, Professor of Photonics, and Peter Andrekson, Professor of Photonics and director of the Chalmers Centre of Excellence Fiber Optic Communications Research Centre (FORCE), all from the Photonics Laboratory at MC2, and Leif Oxenlöwe at the Centre for Silicon Photonics for Optical Communication (SPOC) at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).
"We intend to develop this into a leading research environment in Europe. We will build this strong environment through a collaboration between FORCE here at Chalmers and SPOC at DTU. They provide complementary expertise and together we represent the two leading research centres for optical communication in Scandinavia", says Anders Larsson.
Significantly increased capacity
The project aims to develop techniques and methods which make it possible to significantly increase capacity by sending data at multiple wavelengths per fiber. This is called wavelength division multiplexing (WDM), and requires solutions other than telecommunications since the requirements for example the level of integration, power consumption and cost are very different.
"For this, we will develop new types of light sources that emit light at several wavelengths, methods to integrate these into complete optical transmitters and methods with which to encode information on the different wavelengths. We will work with different techniques and methods for different parts of the communications network in a data center, from short links such as connecting servers in a rack to longer links that connect groups of servers in different parts of the center", explains Anders Larsson.
An important part of the project is the integration where researchers will use something called silicon photonics, which is a technology for building integrated optical circuits in silicon.
Combining plasmonics and quantum information
Göran Johansson, Professor of Applied Quantum Physics and Head of the Applied Quantum Physics Laboratory, gets almost as much funding, 23,688,000 SEK for the project "Quantum plasmonics – a technology for quantum photon-photon interactions at room-temperature".
"Our vision is a quantum computer that works at room temperature and a global Internet for quantum information. The key to this is to combine two fields of research that have not cooperated in any significant way: plasmonics and quantum information. With this as a building block the road is open to both a quantum computer and a quantum Internet", says Göran Johansson, who contributes to the theory of quantum physics part.
"A fruit of the Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Area of Advance"
His co-applicants in the project are Timur Shegai, Associate Professor, and Mikael Käll, Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, both of which make plasmonic experiments and have achieved very promising results so far.
"The cooperation is a fruit of the Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Area of Advance, which also supported a start-up project in the area last fall. It is also in line with the future flagship of quantum technology", says Göran Johansson.
Per Delsing, Professor of Experimental Physics at MC2, is also contributing with his expertise to the project.
"Enormous impact on our society"
Quantum physics and information theory are two of the last century's most significant scientific and technological breakthroughs. Quantum physics explains how nature works at the atomistic scales and forms the theoretical basis for the semiconductor and photonics technologies enabling today's information society. Information theory quantifies the information content and provides the framework for effective communication and information processing.
"Together, these two breakthroughs had an enormous impact on our society, both social structures of economy, technology and science", says Göran Johansson.
The end of the last century a number of scientific discoveries initiated a process in which these two fields are joined and we started talking about quantum information. Scientists realized that a computer where information is stored and processed according to the principles of quantum physics could solve problems that are unsolvable for today's computers.
"It also became clear that communication based on quantum information allows us to do things that are impossible in classical communication, for example may be made completely secure against eavesdropping."
Potential to operate at normal pressure and room temperature
Several technologies for quantum information has been developed, based on natural quantum systems such as atoms and photons as well as tailored quantum superconducting circuits and semiconductor quantum dots. A problem common to all these technologies is that they require very low temperatures and/or ultra-red vacuum to operate.
"In our research environment, we develop a technology for quantum information that has the potential to operate at normal pressure and room temperature. Key to this is the electromagnetic properties of metallic nanoparticles", explains Göran Johansson.
Nearly 95 MSEK in total to Chalmers
Chalmers was granted a total of 94,842,000 SEK of the Swedish Research Council's call for the years 2017-2022. Of these MC2 receieves a total of 47,676,000. The total amount for the entire grant period is 425,736,000 SEK, allocated to seven Swedish universities. Chalmers is the university allocated second most funding, just barely passed by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, which received 95,742,000 SEK.
Text and photo: Michael Nystås