Frickin’ lasers: Researchers achieve fastest data transfer in the US

University of Illinois scientists think they have found a much faster way to transfer in data centers after creating a laser-based device that can transmit data at 40 gigabits per second.

As computers get faster, both data processing and transfer speeds between computers need to keep up to maximize a computer’s abilities. Transfer speeds currently lag, which creates a bottleneck for data before it reaches a computer.

“Information is not useful if you cannot transmit it,” University of Illinois electrical and computer engineering professor Milton Feng said in a release. “If you cannot transfer data, you just generate garbage. So the transfer technology is very important. High-speed data transfer will allow tele-computation, tele-medicine, tele-instruction. It all depends on how fast you can transfer the information.”

The variety of laser devices, known as VCSELs, are known for being faster, more accurate and more energy efficient than the more traditional electrical wires used in homes. They operate with fiber-optic cables, which transmit data in the form of light signals.

The Illinois researchers say the development will aid data researchers, especially in fields like medicine that rely on the cloud and send huge amounts of data back and forth.

They now want to alter the device so that it can operate at the higher temperatures that pervade data centers. Feng said the laser device could someday transmit data at 60 gigabits per second.