The Future of Optical Communications is Cooled

June 7, 2021

The pandemic has catalyzed a long-term acceleration of network bandwidth for internet service and content providers. The digital transformation that has resulted from COVID-19 has truly touched all of our lives – it has changed the way we work, learn, consume media, visit the doctor and more. As more of the world is vaccinated and lock-down restrictions ease, it is widely expected for many of these changes to become permanent. As such, internet service providers are feeling unprecedented pressure on their networks and are responding by accelerating investment in all parts of their network, as content/platform providers also scale up to deal with the dramatically increased demand for their products. This is driving an unprecedented amount of fiber into more places across the globe and accelerating bandwidth expansion across the internet.  

Increasing data rate demands are requiring extremely high performance and increasing the need for cooled optics. It is well-established in the optoelectronics industry that cutting-edge optical components require active cooling with TECs to ensure the wavelength control and modulation frequency specifications. As the modulation rate increases beyond 100G per lane, higher-order amplitude modulation schemes like PAM6 or even coherent transmission must be considered even for the shortest reaches. A recent presentation given by datacenter optics experts predicts that uncooled EMLs will not be able to transmit 200G/lane beyond 1km due to chromatic dispersion. The entire industry is reaching a tipping point, where cooled, high-bandwidth lasers will be required even for the shortest reaches … and cooled optics inside the datacenter will become commonplace.  

google graph

Data adapted from Google presentation, Lightwave webinar – Feb 2021

Power consumption and cost are increasingly critical requirements for datacenter optics. With the march toward 800G ethernet optics, the need for low power consumption and ever-decreasing cost/bit is only becoming more severe. With SerDes, DSPs and other electronics consuming more power than ever before, the TOSA and ROSA inside pluggable modules is feeling increasingly squeezed. Managing the power budget of all of the components in the light engine is critical, with arduous laser optical power output and efficiency specifications. This tenuous grasp on power budget an have a negative impact on laser chip and package yield.    

And it has become clear that “going uncooled” is not the cost reducer it used to be. While using uncooled lasers has traditionally been a way to reduce power consumption and cost, the battlefield has shifted. Cutting-edge, high bandwidth uncooled EMLs are a sizable cost premium over their cooled counterparts. Moreover, ensuring these stringent performance expectations are met across the entire operating temperature range can negatively impact chip and package yield, thus increasing the overall cost of the package.

Phononic’s full line of Thermoelectric Coolers (TECs) are the ideal solution for cooling lasers used in high-speed optical components to ensure TOSA performance is met at high yield across the entire operating temperature range.    

Best-in-Class Power Consumption: The power consumption limitations for the optical modules in high-speed optical components are incredibly stringent, so minimizing power consumption of every single component and sub-component is critical to achieving high yield and low cost. With the industry’s lowest power consumption, Phononic’s thermoelectric coolers will keep laser packages and modules well within specification.

Cost-effective solutions for multi-channel laser packages: Phononic’s advanced, highly automated manufacturing process allows us to aggressively pursue high-volume cost targets. Our design process treats product cost as a key requirement and we can make design recommendations to enable sub-$1/lane price targets for TECs in multi-channel laser assemblies.

Application-specific designs, ready for high-volume manufacturing: Phononic will be your design partner to create a TEC that meets your exacting performance, form factor and integration requirements. We have a number of design tools and options at our disposal. And since we base those application-specific designs on thoroughly-tested and vetted technology platforms, we can create and scale new designs into high-volume exceedingly quickly. 

The way we work and live has changed, at a speed never before seen in this century. To keep up with the exploding demands for data at the highest-level performance, we venture that the future will be cooled.

– Alex Guichard, Director of Product Marketing

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Additional blog post for reference,