Lasers Evolve to Meet the Demands
of Optical Communications
BY MARIE FREEBODY, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
Top of page: Wavelength-division-multiplexed
VCSEL modules are used in high-bandwidth optical
fiber communications systems. Courtesy of
With ever-increasing demands on bandwidth, speed and deploy- ment, efforts to reduce the size
and cost of communications systems have
never been so important.
One technology that has continued to
keep pace with demand so far is the semiconductor laser, but can it continue to
evolve to provide optical communications
systems with higher speed, lower production costs, lower power dissipation and a
smaller form factor? Opinions are mixed.
“In optical systems, the laser itself
cannot be shrunk; its size is dictated by
physics,” said Martin Zirngibl, head of
Physical Technologies Research at Bell
Labs in Murray Hill, N.J. “However, you
can more tightly integrate everything that
is needed to operate the laser.”
Optical systems contain footprint-con-
suming packaging that includes electrical,
optical and optoelectronic components, all
of which must work together.
Laser technology must be improved
While there are techniques and design
advances that have evolved to keep pace
with our needs, next-generation technology must step up its game.