uOttawa scientist announces a breakthrough photonic signal processor

Posted on Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Professor Jianping Yao and his team, in collaboration with Professor Larry Coldren from the University of California Santa Barbara, has published a new study demonstrating the first fully reconfigurable photonic integrated signal processor, in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Photonics.

Signal processors perform a variety of functions in virtually all electronic devices, including TVs, computers, mobile phones, communications systems and radars. A fully reconfigurable photonic integrated signal processor is similar to an electronic signal processor, but can be up to 1000 times faster. This technology heralds the arrival of computers that can operate at much higher speeds, and higher resolution TVs with much better image quality, to name just a few of applications.

“For a large-scale programmable optical chip, the processing bandwidth can be 1,000 times wider than an electronic chip, which could be useful for ultra-high-speed analog-to-digital conversion, all-optical signal processing in communications networks, or ultra-fast image processing,” explains Professor Yao.

The study reports the first fully reconfigurable photonic signal processor based on a state-of-the-art photonic integrated circuit, which has performed various signal processing functions under experimental conditions

In fact, a large-scale programmable photonic chip could be considered the optical equivalent to current field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA). “Similar to the invention of FPGA in 1985, the availability of large-scale programmable optical chips would be an important step forward towards ultra-fast and wide-band signal processing,” says Yao.

Professor Yao is the University Research Chair in Microwave Photonics at the University of Ottawa. He has been actively working in microwave photonic signal processing, an inter-disciplinary field that combines microwaves and photonics for ultra-fast microwave signal generation and processing.

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