ASTRON & IBM Center for Exascale Technology

Nano Photonics

The transport of data is and will remain a major cost factor, not only in future Radio-astronomy systems such as SKA, both for the initial investment and in terms of operational cost. Every place where power can be saved must be examined, end-to-end, thus from Antenna to end-user processor. Currently, long haul networks are all glass-fibre; analog links (RF) are all copper, and for short haul digital links various systems are used. There is a strong need to look at the application of low-power photonic interconnects from a systems perspective, examining where and how they can most effectively be deployed for the various connections. As a next step, photonic processing might be a low-cost alternative to various operations in particular beamforming. IBM has a strong research program on nano-photonics aimed at applications in datacentra. ASTRON has programs on photonic beamforming and analog optical links.

The Nano Photonics research is subdivided into four R&D sections. One of the R&D sections treats the study and development of digital optical interconnect technology, while the other three R&D sections are concerned with analog optical interconnects and analog optical signal processing.

  1. I. Digital optical interconnect technology for astronomy signal processing boards.
    IBM digital interconnect technology will be applied to existing ASTRON Printed-Circuit Boards and will be evaluated for applicability, cost level and power consumption.
  2. Analog optical interconnection technology for focal plane array front-ends.
    IBM surface-mount optical interconnect technology will be evaluated for analog optical signal transfer in the front-end of focal plane array systems. Limitations for transmission distance caused by current multi-mode characteristics need to be overcome, e.g. through the use of single mode technology.
  3. Analog optical interconnection technology for photonic phased array receiver tiles
    Single mode optical interconnect technology between the analog photonic phased array demonstrator and PCB based optical interconnects will be developed using the existing base of IBM surface mount and PCB technology.
  4. Analog optical interconnection and signal processing technology for photonic focal plane arrays.
    IBM PCB and integrated optical chip interconnect technology will be investigated, applied and tested in the front-end of a photonic focal plane array system. This will include photonic signal processing using photonic integrated circuit technology.