The attraction of optical backplanes is
principally that they can transmit far higher data rates than
their electrical counterparts. Using standard multimode optical
waveguides the bitrate length product is around 20 GHz.m. Even
higher bandwidth-distance products are possible when a complex
waveguide structure or mode scrambling is used.
Point-to-point fibre-based products such as
AIT’s Flexfoil are currently used in some systems to provide
high speed connectivity. However, BPA predict that there will be
shift towards embedded guides which offer true backplane
capability over the next 2 years. For, an important additional
feature of optical backplanes is that the stringent EMI design
rules for copper tracks do not apply for optical waveguides.
Because of this, there is great design flexibility in the
routing of signals within a rack or even chassis backplane.
Optical backplanes for telecom/datacom are
expected to be combined electrical/optical structures with
multilayer (~16) copper tracks continuing to provide electrical
connectivity and an optical layer providing high data rates
embedded in the board. See figure 2.
Figure 2 – Embedded Polymer Waveguides
In such embedded boards, the optical layer is
protected from damage and interconnectivity between copper
tracks in each layer is not affected
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