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Engineers Make Leap in Optical Networks

Published: October 27, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 26 – A team of Stanford electrical engineers has discovered how to switch a beam of laser light on and off up to 100 billion times a second with materials that are widely used in the semiconductor industry.

The group used a standard chip-making process to design a central component of optical networking gear that is potentially more than 10 times as fast as the highest-performance commercial products available today.

The communications industry now uses costly equipment to transmit data over optical fibers at up to 10 billion bits a second. Researchers, however, are already experimenting with optically linked computers in which components may be located on different sides of the globe. Cheap optical switches would also make it possible to create data superhighways inside computers and reorganize them for better performance.