‘Twisted’ fibre optic light breakthrough could make internet 100 times faster

Donna Miller
October 27, 2018

Researchers claim it could be easily applied to existing telecommunications networks and significantly boost efficiency.

Fibre optic cables now require light to be a specific colour or organised so the light travels either horizontally or vertically.

With the addition of the nanophotonic device, the data is carried on light waves that have been twisted into a spiral to increase the capacity even further. "The more you can use angular momentum the more information you can carry".

Fibre optic cables involve tiny tubes that are about as thick as a human hair and are reflective on the inside. As the Guardian notes, existing networks typically use color and orientation of light patterns as their primary means of relaying information.

These flashes of data are then received and interpreted at the other end.

Fiber-optic cables now use two-dimensional pulses of light to transmit information, with the color of the light and its horizontal or vertical orientation being the only ways in which information can be stored.

New broadband technologies being developed use the oscillation or shape of light waves to encode data, increasing bandwidth by also making use of light aspects that can not be easily detected, according to the university.

But until now, there wasn't a feasible way to properly process and decode twisted light on a small enough scale to be effective. This allows the light to carry a lot more data than it already does, which is awesome, and actually implementing such a system might be easier than you'd think. Previous iterations were highly impractical because they were so large (no one wants a smartphone the size of a dinner table).

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'We could produce the first chip that could detect this twisting and display it for mobile application, ' professor Gu said.

"Present-day optical communications are heading towards a "capacity crunch" as they fail to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of big data", Dr Haoran Ren from RMIT's School of Science said.

Ren said the tiny nanophotonic device him and his team built for reading twisted light is the missing key required to unlock super-fast, ultra-broadband communications.

The latest fibre optic technology uses the oscillation, or shape, of light waves to encode data, thereby increasing bandwidth by making use of light invisible to the naked eye.

"Our nano-electronic device will unlock the full potential of twisted light for future optical and quantum communications", Gu said.

But technology to detect a wide range of OAM light for optical communications hasn't been viable until now.

Prof Gu said creating a silicon-compatible detector should make it easy to scale-up the technology for telecommunications applications, yielding as much as a 100 times capacity improvement "within the next couple of years".

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