Energy Efficiency Project Led by UCSB Funded by DOE

Thursday, November 15, 2018

A project led by Daniel Blumenthal, a professor in UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was among 40 new projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of OPEN 2018, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA E) latest open funding opportunity. The $98 million in funding supports the research and development projects of America’s top energy innovators as they seek to develop technologies to transform the nation’s energy system.

“ARPA-E’s open solicitations serve a valuable purpose. They give America’s energy innovators the opportunity to tell us about the next big thing,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “Many of the greatest advances in human history started from the bottom up with a single person or idea, and OPEN 2018 provides a chance to open our doors to potentially the next great advancement in energy.”

Blumenthal’s project, FRESCO: Frequency Stabilized Coherent Optical Low-energy Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) DC Interconnects, received $3,750,000 to develop a low power, low-cost solution to overcome power and bandwidth scaling limitations that will occur with the emergence of hyperscale data centers and related exponential growth in global data traffic and address future energy efficiency needs. 

The FRESCO transceiver leverages recent advances in fundamental laser physics to enable terabit, coherent optical (light-based) data transmission inside data centers using an ultra-pure and ultra-stable laser signal. The outcome of the project will be an integrated photonic package capable of connecting to 100 terabit-per-second networking switches over coherent optical short-reach data center fiber links. This effort could disrupt the way data centers, data center interconnects, and terabit Ethernet switches are built, drastically reducing their global energy consumption.

“The funding is significant in that it establishes our leadership in the next generation of optical fiber research and energy efficient data centers,” said Blumenthal. “It also ushers a broad team of academic and industry researchers and resources into a new era of communications that will bring the performance of systems normally found in large scientific instruments, like atomic clocks, onto the chip scale.”

Yale University; Northern Arizona University; University of Colorado, Boulder; Stanford University; the National Institute of Standards and Technology; Morton Photonics; Microsoft; and Barefoot Networks are collaborating with UCSB on the project. 

At UCSB, Blumenthal heads the Optical Communications and Photonic Integration (OCPI) Group and serves as director of the Terabit Optical Ethernet Center (TOEC). His research focuses on energy-efficient photonics for communications. Blumenthal is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the Optical Society. His additional honors include: Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers; National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award; and an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program Award. The selected OPEN 2018 projects are in 21 states and fall into nine categories, including energy efficiency that included Blumenthal’s. Forty-three percent of the projects will be led by universities, 35 percent by small businesses, and the emainder by large businesses, non-profit organizations or federally-funded research and development centers.

A project led by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, an industry partner of UC Santa Barbara’s Institute for Energy Efficiency, received $3,506,711 in funding. Hewlett Packard Labs will develop a low-energy consumption, ultra-efficient, high-speed technology for transmitting data as light in high-performance computing systems and data center. 

The 40 projects are just the beginning, as OPEN applications have seeded other small new program areas that ARPA-E will roll out over the coming weeks. To view the complete list of selected OPEN 2018 projects, click HERE.


Professor Dan Blumenthal

Professor Dan Blumenthal, Electrical and Computer Engineering