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Optical components

C-3PO Strives for Green Photonics

A European Commission-funded project is giving the optical components sector some green street cred by aiming to squeeze the power requirements for certain types of photonic devices.

The three-year project is being called Colorless and Coolerless Components for Low-Power Optical Networks, which participants are shortening to C-3PO.

Yes, sci-fi geeks, they named it after a breakfast cereal.

ADVA Optical Networking is announcing its involvement today, but C-3PO got introduced to the world a couple of weeks ago.

Among the goals being pursued is the development of a reflective transceiver array, which would be useful inside an Optical Line Terminal (OLT) for future generations of WDM-PON. The key is to develop a reflective electro-absorption modulator that could be integrated with a semiconductor optical amplifier (SOA).

That's got ADVA's interest, because future generations of WDM-PON will need higher levels of integration.

"With a bunch of dedicated, standalone transceivers, you could never reach the energy benchmark coming from XG-PON," says Klaus Grobe, a senior principal engineer with ADVA. "We need a compact component as low in energy consumption as possible. It's even more important than low-cost tunables or reflective SOAs for the Optical Network Unit (ONU)."

The C-3PO Website notes that reflective modulators could also be useful for IP over DWDM (IPoDWDM), a technology that integrates DWDM optics onto a router's line card.

Photonics are not the biggest power suck in the network. But C-3PO participants reason that every piece of the network will eventually need a green checkup. "Every single layer in the complete network has to be considered, and that means network architectures, maybe even application architectures, systems, components, and safe or sleep modes. Optics can't be excluded," Grobe says.

The data center, as a whole, is a more obvious power hog, but Grobe points out that this problem is being addressed by virtualization, a process that lets users tap servers and storage that are widely distributed. Virtualization is made possible by high-speed optical networks. Thus, low-power optics will have some role in defining data-center power usage.

The work will be carried out by research organizations: the UK's Centre for Integrated Photonics (CIP) Ltd. ; Constelex Technology Enablers, from Greece; Imec, from Belgium; and the Tyndall National Institute at University College Cork , Ireland.

Optical switch vendor Polatis Inc. is also participating, the only other commercial entity involved so far besides ADVA.

ADVA will participate only at the start and end of C-3PO's three-year span, Grobe says. Right now, ADVA is being tapped for component specifications, helping define what C-3PO will build. In the end, ADVA will come back for lab testing of the new components.

None of the products is likely to reach commercial viability until after C-3PO's contract ends, Grobe says.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:30:36 PM
re: C-3PO Strives for Green Photonics

Full disclosure: I have no memory of the C-3PO breakfast cereal.  I don't even remember commercials for it.  From the look of the pieces, I assume the cereal was like Alpha-Bits without the marshmallows, which would probably explain why it didn't last.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:30:33 PM
re: C-3PO Strives for Green Photonics

Here's the commercial:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LT3-3wieqB0 


Tagline: "A new force at breakfast"


How apropos...


JB

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 4:30:32 PM
re: C-3PO Strives for Green Photonics

ever.

digits 12/5/2012 | 4:30:30 PM
re: C-3PO Strives for Green Photonics

I agree. I guffawed out loud in an environment that wasn't appreciating loud snorting noises at that moment...

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:30:27 PM
re: C-3PO Strives for Green Photonics

Thanks guys!


Getting back on topic -- I keep getting told that basically nobody uses IPoDWDM, which makes it a little surprising that that's a chosen application for the project.  Wonder if they see potential in it, were prodded by someone to work that direction -- or if it's just a case where that happens to be a possible use for some research-in-progress.


WDM-PON is being used by practically nobody, too, but that seems like a reasonable area for basic research. Not that the reflective array alone would spark the WDM-PON market into being.

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