News Feature | October 26, 2022

Bright Ideas — Quantum Inertial Sensors Could Save Communications, China To Open First Photonic Chip Fab

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By Abby Proch, former editor


Every few weeks, it seems the James Webb Space Telescope reveals a new and revolutionary view of the early universe. And this week was no exception. A group from Johns Hopkins University that had secured one of 13 “early look” project opportunities with NASA, ESA, and CSA discovered “a cluster of galaxies merging together around a rare red quasar within a massive black hole.” It had previously seen by the Hubble Space Telescope, but not with this level of clarity. The Webb telescope’s NIRSpec (Near Infrared Spectrograph) operates in the 0.6-to-5-micron wavelength range and features a unique microshutter array, composed of cells as wide as a human hair, that images 100 spectra at the same time. Its NIRCam also produced another astounding image, this time of the well-known Pillars of Creation, first captured by the Hubble in 1995. This latest rendition from the Webb telescope offers a crisper image with a wider field of view revealing young stars — some just a few thousand years old — as they form out of the pillars of gas and dust.

China is ready to welcome its first photonic chip manufacturing facility, according to a report by Global Times. Sintone, a technology company based in Beijing, will reportedly finished construction on the “multi-material and cross-size” photonic chip facility in 2023, but it’s likely the chips won’t make it into consumer products until much later, after proper verification. Despite the newsworthy announcement, details are scant.

In today’s contested environment, experts around the world are looking for ways to secure military communications from intentional jamming and inadvertent interference. One Sandia atomic physicist and his team are working to provide reliable backup to GPS by bringing quantum inertial sensors from the benchtop to the battlefront. Although the laser-and-vacuum system typically blankets an entire table, the assembly has been downsized into a single monolithic structure about the size of a shoebox. If the efforts toward SWaP are successful, the sensor system’s performance is reportedly 1,000 times more accurate at detecting motion than existing systems and could better support navigation in missiles, aircraft, and drones.

The fiber optic connectors market is forecasted to grow 9.4% CAGR from now until 2028, likely reaching $9.5 billion, according to the latest market report from The report attributes the growth to an increasing “demand for 4G services, rising security, and safety concerns.” Regarding 4G in particular, video and streaming services are driving the need for higher speed, higher bandwidth data transmission.  The report notes recent strategies’ influence on the growth, including a recent partnership between Broadcom and Tencent Holdings and an agreement between Siemens Energy and Greenlink, as well as product releases from Siemens AG, 3M Company, Broadcom, Amphenol, TE Connectivity, and Aptiv.

In other fiber optic news, a collective of researchers have developed a single photonic chip capable of sending 1.84 petabits of data per second across a nearly 8 km span of fiber optic cable. Using a frequency comb, the researchers split the data among 37 individual threads in a fiber cable, and each of those lines were split further into 223 segments that match specific wavelengths in the optical spectrum. The chip allows increased data transmission and was developed to meet the growing demands of internet usage.

Finally, a reboot of the Optatec international trade show earlier this month in Frankfurt, Germany, brought renewed enthusiasm after a four year-long hiatus. Back for the first time since 2018, the conference welcomed more than 250 optical technologies, components, and systems exhibitors from 30 countries. More than half of the exhibitors came from overseas, and nearly 3,500 visitors attended. Some of the trending topics covered at the event were increasingly stringent quality requirements and growing use of automation and digitalization.