Researchers at Australia’s RMIT University recently discovered a new fiber optic breakthrough that could lead to 100 times faster internet speeds. This new development detects light that has been twisted into a spiral.
According to research in Nature Communications, developers could upgrade existing fiber optic networks and boost efficiency using this discovery.
HOW IT WORKS
Fiber optic cables use pulses of light to transmit information. However, users can only store that data based on the color of the light and whether the light wave is horizontal or vertical.
The RMIT researchers twisted light into a spiral and created a third dimension for light to carry information – the level of orbital angular momentum, or spin. Dr. Min Gu of RMIT compared it to the double helix spiral of DNA. According to Dr. Gu, a greater amount of angular momentum allows an optical fiber to carry a larger amount of information.
Researchers have used “twisted light” approaches and orbital angular momentum before. They encoded a greater amount of data in various degrees of twist using these “twisted” methods. In fact, researchers at Boston University and the University of Southern California developed an optical fiber that could twist light. However, the teams used detectors as large as “the size of a dining table.” The RMIT researchers created a reasonably-sized detector that reads the information it holds. The new detector is the width of a human hair.
WHAT IT CAN DO
Providers could upgrade long haul networks around the globe with this new fiber optic technology. These companies include the NBN Co. NBN is deploying Australia’s national broadband network. The company expects to complete this network by 2020.
NBN is “prepared for future demand.” However, they have also stated that fiber optic advances such as this one by RMIT need further testing and acceptance before being deployed. A spokesperson commented, “Laboratories continually test new communications technologies for many years before they are commercialized. Equipment manufacturers and network operators must accept these new methods on a widespread scale before they are ready to be deployed in the field.”