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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Abdullah Ibn Abbas, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Power Proportional Optical Links

Date & time
Tuesday, March 9, 2021 (all day)

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


The continuous increase in data transfer rate in short-reach links, such as chip-to-chip and between servers within a data-center, demands high-speed links. As power efficiency becomes ever more important in these links, power-efficient optical links need to be designed.

Power efficiency in a link can be achieved by enabling power-proportional communication over the serial link. In power-proportional links, the power dissipated by a link is proportional to the amount of data communicated. Normally, data-rate demand is not constant, and the peak data-rate is not required all the time. If a link is not adapted according to the data-rate demand, there will be a fixed power dissipation, and the power efficiency of the link will degrade during the sub-maximal link utilization. Adapting links to real-time data-rate requirements reduces power dissipation. Power proportionality is achieved by scaling the power of the serial link linearly with the link utilization, and techniques such as variable data-rate and burst-mode can be adopted for this purpose. Links whose data rate (and hence power dissipation) can be varied in response to system demands are proposed in this work.

Past works have presented rapidly reconfigurable bandwidth in variable data-rate receivers, allowing lower power dissipation for lower data-rate operation. However, maintaining synchronization during reconfiguration was not possible since previous approaches have introduced changes in front-end delay when they are reconfigured. This work presents a technique that allows rapid bandwidth adjustment while maintaining a near-constant delay through the receiver suitable for a power-scalable variable data-rate optical link. Measurements of a fabricated integrated circuit (IC) show nearly constant energy per bit across a 2× variation in data rate while introducing less than 10 % of a unit interval (UI) of delay variation.

With continuously increasing data communication in data-centers, parallel optical links with ever-increasing per-lane data rates are being used to meet overall throughput demands. Simultaneously, power efficiency is becoming increasingly important for these links since they do not transmit useful data all the time. The burst-mode solution for vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL)-based point-to-point communication can be used to improve links’ energy efficiency during low link activity. The burst-mode technique for VCSEL-based links has not yet been deployed commercially. Past works have presented burst-mode solutions for single-channel receivers, allowing lower power dissipation during low link activity and solutions for fast activation of the receivers. However, this work presents a novel technique that allows rapid activation of a front-end and fast locking of a clock-and-data-recovery (CDR) for a multi-channel parallel link, utilizing opportunities arising from the parallel nature of many VCSEL-based links. The idea has been demonstrated through electrical and optical measurements of a fabricated IC at 10 Gbps, which show fast data detection and activation of the circuitry within 49 UIs while allowing the front-end to achieve better energy efficiency during low link activity. Simulation results are also presented in support of the proposed technique which allows the CDR to lock within 26 UIs from when it is powered on.

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