Teledyne DALSA Success Story
Helping Data Centres Take an Economical and Energy-Efficient Path
Small technology is big global business. And it has the potential to make a big impact on our environment. With the right application, it can help us to decrease our energy consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help slow climate change. The team at Teledyne DALSA in Bromont, Québec knows this well. They look out over the green rolling hills that lead-up to Mount Brome as they drive up to the office each day. It serves as inspiration to develop technology that will preserve this environment for their children and future generations. And as the leader of an Equation sub-project, the company is doing just that.
Teledyne DALSA is an international leader in high-performance digital imaging and semiconductors with approximately 1,000 employees worldwide. This includes more than 90 engineers and scientific staff based in Bromont. Established in 1980 and acquired by Teledyne Technologies in 2011, Teledyne DALSA designs, develops, manufactures, and markets digital imaging products and solutions, in addition to providing semiconductor products and services. The company possesses more than 30 years of expertise in specialized integrated circuit and electronics technology, software and highly engineered semiconductor wafer processing. This technology is found in factories, laboratories, studios, hospitals and inspection stations all over the world – and even on other planets. Teledyne DALSA manufactured the high-reliability microchips that provide the Mars Curiosity Rover with image-capturing capabilities as it roams the Martian landscape. With so many achievements under their belt, it is no wonder the firm is now developing technology that will help to conserve energy.
With critical support from the Government of Québec through Equation, Teledyne DALSA is developing sophisticated optical components that will significantly reduce the power required to operate an optical network. Optical networks send data digitally, as pulses of light, through connected fibre strands. About the size of a human hair, these fibres are powerful glass pipes that enable the rapid transmission of large volumes of data over the Internet. They provide the capacity required to send and receive this information over very long distances – up to 100 gigabytes per second – to locations all around the world. This includes data centres that house computer systems, telecommunications equipment, and other hardware and software. Teledyne DALSA aims to help these facilities – and by extension, the users who rely on them – to reduce their energy consumption by more than 50%.
The company is developing a unique application-specific optical cross connect switch – a device used by telecommunications carriers to switch high-speed optical signals in a fibre optic network. Combining several microsystems technologies, this switch will enable operators to reconfigure and reprogram data centre networks quickly and easily. Today, data centres rely primarily on electrical circuitry to perform this function. As described by Marc Faucher, Director of Product Development Solutions at Teledyne DALSA, this optical technology opens new possibilities for cloud computing-based data centres to reduce operational costs and conserve energy.
“By leveraging optical networks as opposed to electrical networks to manage traffic to data centres, we can provide carriers with new capabilities while reducing network power consumption. We are developing an application-specific optical switch that will allow operators to rapidly re-route traffic to different data centre modules and networks. This will help them to reap significant cost and energy savings. For example, many data centres are now exploring renewable energy sources such as wind, hydro and solar power. These energy sources often generate power intermittently. Using this optical device, operators could flow traffic to data centres currently drawing on solar power, and then redirect it a few hours later to an alternate computing facility driven by wind or hydropower once the sun goes down. This Equation Project opens-up many new possibilities for telecommunication networks and the data centres that rely on them.”
It is a technology sea change that could pack a major environmental punch for the computing industry. It is estimated that data centres that draw on renewable energy could decrease the consumption of brown energy (or energy produced by polluting sources) by 35%. This will have a positive impact on the business community these facilities serve. Green data centres that produce clean computing power enable the development of green applications.
“As opposed to having tens of thousands of data centre switchboards expending needless energy to function at minimal capacity throughout the evening, this switch will enable operators to reroute all night traffic to a select few,” said Mr. Faucher. “Operators could target a computing facility where it is an off-peak time of the day and energy prices are lower. This type of strategic flexibility could significantly reduce operational costs and energy consumption across this industry.”
Over the last year, Teledyne DALSA designed and manufactured an application-specific switch that supports transmission speeds of both current and next-generation networks. This device combines high-voltage integrated circuit technology and micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS). MEMS are tiny mechanical devices and machines small enough to fit on the head of a pin. These technologies sense their environment and can be precisely actuated. The first prototype switch features miniaturized mirrors that can be tilted and controlled to direct the flow of data as a beam of light in any desired optical fibre on the network. When developing this custom product, Teledyne DALSA employees worked with local research partners from Optech, Québec’s optics and photonics college centre for technology transfer. Prompt helped to facilitate these valuable research collaborations as the Equation Project Coordinator.
“This project enabled our engineering team to bring their photonics expertise to bear on the development of a commercial system that brings together optics, microelectronics and MEMS – from design through to prototype and testing,” said Mr. Maroun Massabki, Development and Innovation Director at Optech. “It allowed us to play a key role in the development of this optical device and its integration with Teledyne DALSA technology. We aim to leverage the knowledge and experience we have acquired with this industry leader to open-up new opportunities for Optech in the microelectronics world, specifically in micro-optics system design and integration.”
Mr. Faucher emphasizes the value of Equation as a driver to this R&D initiative. “The funding provided by the Government of Québec through Equation, together with the expert coordination by Prompt, enabled us to assemble a Québec all-star team for this project. The outcomes of this cooperative R&D will strengthen the technology portfolios of each contributor, and cultivate the expertise required to create a strong economic and environmental future for Québec.”
Going forward, Teledyne DALSA aims to create a higher performance version of the application-specific switch for greater speed and connectivity. The team will also develop hardware and software platforms that help validate the performance of this customized optical switch.
This initiative is helping to pave the way for the development of new communication networks that increase capacity while reducing power consumption. These networks will support the aerospace, automotive and entertainment sectors, and the many technology suppliers that aim to help build intelligent cities and homes of the future.