Molex introduces hybrid optical-electrical interconnects

8th September 2022
Sheryl Miles

Molex, a global electronics and connectivity innovator, has announced its first-to-market, pluggable module solution for co-packaged optics (CPO).

Its External Laser Source Interconnect System (ELSIS) is a complete system of cage, optical and electrical connectors with a pluggable module that uses proven technology to speed the development of hyperscale data centres.

Molex is currently sampling the ELSIS hybrid optical electrical connector and cage system, giving engineers a head start on development and testing – well ahead of industry adoption of CPO.

Supporting design and development materials for the fully pluggable module system, including 3D models, technical drawings and detailed specifications, are available. Molex is targeting Q3 2023 for release of the fully integrated solution, which will enable companies to commercialise their designs and ramp production as CPO acceptance scales.

Safety, thermal management and signal integrity

CPO is a next-gen technology that moves optical connections from the front panel to within the host system – right next to high-speed ICs.

“From high-speed networking chips to graphics processing units (GPUs) and AI engines, the demand for I/O bandwidth continues to escalate,” said Tom Marrapode, Director of Advanced Technology Development, Molex Optical Solutions. “By placing the optics closer to these ASICs, CPO will address the growing complexities associated with high-speed electrical traces, including signal integrity, density and power consumption.”

Traditional pluggable modules have their optical connections at the user side of the module, creating concerns about eye safety when used with high-power laser sources, such as those planned for CPO. As a blind-mating solution, ELSIS eliminates user access to optical fibre ports and cables, providing a complete external laser source system for safe, easy implementation and maintenance.

The use of external laser sources also means a major heat source is moved away from the optoelectronics and IC package. Plus, the design eliminates high-speed electrical I/O drivers on the IC and in pluggable modules, further reducing thermal loads and power consumption within the equipment.

Accelerating design

Molex used its existing optical and electrical I/O products – which have field reliability with millions of ports shipped over 20 years – as building blocks for ELSIS.

This ensures known field performance and reduces the need for considerable engineering and testing. In contrast, competing proposed CPO solutions will be all-new designs requiring extensive validation that puts time-to-market at risk.

ELSIS also offers advantages as a comprehensive, all-in-one solution. External laser source systems comprise a complex mix of optical and electrical connectors, pluggable modules, internal host system fibre optic cabling and cages. By designing all these elements in-house, Molex has created a fully engineered system that obviates the lengthy design cycles needed to integrate these components. The result is an interoperable system that gives designers and end-users a plug-and-play experience.

All of this is possible thanks to Molex’s broad portfolio, which includes optical and electrical connectors, on-card optical cabling, optoelectrical modules and cage design.

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