What are LightCONEX active optical interconnects ?

The LightCONEX blind mate optical interconnect for VPX embedded computing systems, consists of a module connector and a backplane connector compatible with the VITA 66.4 standard.

Reflex Photonics announced the availability of the LightCONEX 12+12 Active Blind Mate Optical Interconnect solution for the embedded computing systems market. This new line of products features 12-lane full-duplex transceivers, each lane operating at up to 12.5 Gbps for an aggregate bandwidth of up to 300 Gbps. These transceivers are rugged, small-SWaP, low-cost modules, specifically designed for the VPX systems commonly deployed in defense and aerospace applications.

The LightCONEX Solution

The LightCONEX solution is the result of a close partnership between Reflex Photonics and Amphenol Aerospace Operations. The LightCONEX comprises a board-edge plug-in module connector, integrating an active parallel optic transceiver, and a spring-loaded backplane connector developed for VPX systems as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. LightCONEX Active Blind Mate VPX Optical Interconnect

The plug-in module connector reduces system cost and complexity since the optical transceiver mounts to the board edge via a low-height LGA connector. It requires no on-board optical cables handling or routing and frees up board space. The LightCONEX low profile plug-in module connector facilitates eventual integration of mezzanine card. This solution enables easy board card replacement for two-level maintenance and simplifies system upgrades.
The backplane connector, also part of the LightCONEX Solution, is “floating” to allow for precise alignment of the optical fibers from the mating MT ferrules. The spring-loading mechanism is coming from the attached fiber cable terminated by the MT ferrule ensuring optimal mating forces.

Figure 1.
LightCONEX Active Blind Mate VPX Optical Interconnect

The dimensions of these connector modules are defined to be fully compatible with the current VITA 66 standards and particularly the upcoming VITA 66.5 “Optical Interconnect on VPX, Spring Loaded Contact on Backplane” standard. The backplane connector is a drop-in replacement for the VITA 66.4 standard backplane connector.

The LightCONEX Active Optical Transceivers

The active optical modules used in the LightCONEX Solution are also available as standalone modules. They are offered in two versions, as shown in figure 2. The first version is offering a (4+4)-lane transceiver, a 12-lane transceiver or a 12- lane transmitter. The dimensions for each module of this version are 23 mm ×14 mm ×5 mm (L×W×H).

LightABLE LGA and LightABLE LGA 12+12

The second version is a (12+12)-lane full duplex transceiver. The MT ferrule of this module has 24 fibers in two rows of 12 on top of each other. Its dimensions are only 32 mm × 14 mm × 5 mm (L×W×H).

Figure 2.
150G and 300G LightCONEX Optical Transceivers

The main features of these active modules are:

  • Rugged: MIL STD 883 compliant
  • Moisture resistant: sealed
  • Compact (L×W×H): 23 mm ×14 mm ×5 mm for the 12-lane version and 32 mm ×14 mm ×5 mm for the 24-lane version
  • High bandwidth: up to 12.5 Gbps/lane
  • Operating temperature: –40 ºC to 100 ºC
  • Reach: 300 m, OM3 fiber
  • Bit Error Rate: 10–15
  • Low power consumption: 1.4 W per module (12-lane), 2.8 W per module (24-lane)
  • Data interface: CML
  • Board mount: LGA connector

All modules include equalizers and pre-emphasis to compensate long traces; these features can be turned off for short traces (less than 10 cm) to reduce power consumption.

300G LightCONEX VPX Blind Mate Connectors

300G LightCONEX composed of a 12-lane transmitter plus a 12-lane receiver.

Figure 3a shows a 12-lane transmitter adjacent to a 12-lane receiver occupying the space reserved for RF coaxial connectors within the VITA 67.3 standard. This arrangement can sustain a total communication throughput of up to 300 Gbps.

300G LightCONEX VPX backplane connector.

Figure 3.
a) 300G LightCONEX composed of a 12-lane transmitter plus a 12-lane receiver.
b) 300G LightCONEX VPX backplane connector.

Future deployments

600G LightCONEX plug-in module composed of two 24-lane transceiver side by side.

To increase the I/O capability while maintaining a small size connector It is possible to set two 300G 24-lane transceivers side by side in the space reserved for RF Coaxial connectors following VITA 67.3 standard. Such a board is offering a total communication capability of up to 600Gbps! This version is illustrated in figure 4.

Figure 4.
600G LightCONEX plug-in module composed of two 24-lane transceiver side by side.

Illustration of a VPX blind mate connector comprising of a 24 fiber MT ferrule and 10 RF coaxial connectors.

Another configuration would use a combination of optical and RF coaxial connections on the same modules. Figure 5 (as proposed by TE Connectivity) illustrates such a configuration. In this illustration, a 300G 24-lane transmitter or receiver or transceiver is integrated with an array of 10 RF coaxial connectors.

Figure 5.
Illustration of a VPX blind mate connector comprising of a 24 fiber MT ferrule and 10 RF coaxial connectors. The size of this connector meets VITA 66.4 standard.

In summary

Optical Interconnects offer high bandwidth throughput, low latency, assure signal integrity and is the most scalable technology for fast upgrades. The rugged construction of the LightCONEX solution has demonstrated error free data transmission under severe shock, vibration, and temperature extremes.
The LightCONEX solution finds applications in multisensor systems, optical backplanes, routers, switches, and VPX systems, like those deployed in high-performance embedded computing systems for civilian and military command and control monitoring (C4ISR) systems.

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