New Fibre Optic Tech Can Boost Internet Bandwidth

A new fiber optic technology could increase Internet bandwidth capacity by sending data along light beams that twist like a tornado rather than move in a straight line,easing internet congestion and video streaming, scientists say.

The discovery comes as Internet data traffic is reaching its limit amid mounting demand for bandwidth by users of smartphones and Internet-enabled devices, creating problems for network providers.

The new technology uses optical vortices, which are like donut-shaped laser light beams. Also known as orbital angular momentum (OAM) beams, they were thought to be unstable in fibre until until Boston University Engineering Professor Siddharth Ramachandran recently designed an optical fibre that can propagate them.

In the paper in journal Science, he and Alan Willner of University of Southern California, demonstrated the stability of the beams in optical fibre and also their potential to boost Internet bandwidth.

"Our discovery, of design classes in which they are stable, has profound implications for a variety of scientific and technological fields," said Ramachandran.

"Including the use of such beams for enhancing data capacity in fibers."

Traditionally, bandwidth has been enhanced by increasing the number of colours, or wavelengths of data-carrying laser signals - essentially streams of 1s and 0s - sent down on an optical fibre, where the signals are processed according to colour.

An emerging strategy to boost bandwidth is to send the light through a fibre along distinctive paths, or modes, each carrying a cache of data from one end of the fibre to the other.

Unlike the colours, however, data streams of 1s and 0s from different modes mix together; determining which data stream came from which source requires computationally intensive and energy-hungry digital signal processing algorithms.

Prof. Ramachandran’s and Willner’s approach combines strategies, packing several colours into each mode, and using multiple modes.

Researchers showed it was possible to send a huge amount of data through a one-kilometre fiber, as much as 1.6 terabits per second, or the equivalent of transmitting eight Blu-Ray DVDs every second.

Other collaborators on the project were OFS-Fitel, a fiber optics company in Denmark, and Tel Aviv University.
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Write by: RC - Sunday, June 30, 2013

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