Scientists twist light to send data

Jun 25, 2012
Scientists twist light to send data

(Phys.org) -- A multi-national team led by USC with researchers hailing from the U.S., China, Pakistan and Israel has developed a system of transmitting data using twisted beams of light at ultra-high speeds – up to 2.56 terabits per second.

To put that in perspective, broadband cable (which you probably used to download this) supports up to about 30 megabits per second. The twisted-light system transmits more than 85,000 times more data per second.

Their work might be used to build high-speed satellite communication links, short free-space terrestrial links, or potentially be adapted for use in the fiber optic cables that are used by some Internet service providers.

"You're able to do things with light that you can't do with electricity," said Alan Willner, electrical engineering professor at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the corresponding author of an article about the research that was published in Nature Photonics on June 24. "That's the beauty of light; it's a bunch of photons that can be manipulated in many different ways at very high speed."

Willner and his colleagues used beam-twisting "phase holograms" to manipulate eight so that each one twisted in a DNA-like helical shape as it propagated in free space. Each of the beams had its own individual twist and can be encoded with "1" and "0" data bits, making each an independent data stream – much like separate channels on your radio.

Their demonstration transmitted the data over open space in a lab, attempting to simulate the sort of communications that might occur between satellites in space. Among the next steps for the research field will be to advance how it could be adapted for use in fiber optics, like those frequently used to transmit data over the Internet.

The team's work builds on research done by Leslie Allen, Anton Zeilinger, Miles Padgett and their colleagues at several European universities.

"We didn't invent the twisting of light, but we took the concept and ramped it up to a terabit-per-second," Willner said. His team included Jian Wang, Jeng-Yuan Yang, Irfan M. Fazal, Nisar Ahmed, Yan Yan, Hao Huang, Yongxiong Ren and Yang Yue from USC; Samuel Dolinar from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and Moshe Tur from Tel Aviv University.

Wang, the lead author, left USC after completing this research and is now a professor at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China.

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More information: www.nature.com/nphoton/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nphoton.2012.138.html

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User comments : 10

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4 / 5 (1) Jun 25, 2012
Another technological cornerstone, that could be a major boon to scientific machines like the LHC at Cern. One may have a means to transmit extremely large amounts of data, but now it is a matter of increasing storage and processing capacity.
sirchick
not rated yet Jun 26, 2012
I really hope it becomes affordable for internet speed increase. But i doubt itll happen for 20 years or so in the uk
Meyer
not rated yet Jun 26, 2012
If the average web page is 500KB, that's something like 50 billion web pages per day. I need to learn how to read faster if this ever reaches the consumer market.
vlaaing peerd
5 / 5 (2) Jun 26, 2012
cables can support up to 1Gbps, not just 30Mbit. So that's roughly only 2500 times as fast as average cable. Next to this there already is infiband and fibre which goes up to 60Gbps, making it only 42 times as fast as current standards.

Don't get me wrong, it's a marvelous invention, but ease down on the numbers here...
Meyer
5 / 5 (1) Jun 26, 2012
cables can support up to 1Gbps, not just 30Mbit. So that's roughly only 2500 times as fast as average cable. Next to this there already is infiband and fibre which goes up to 60Gbps, making it only 42 times as fast as current standards.

Don't get me wrong, it's a marvelous invention, but ease down on the numbers here...

It was a point of comparison for the average reader, not the average data center manager. Though "85,000 times more data" brings about as much intuition as "circles the Earth 7 times".
dtxx
3 / 5 (1) Jun 26, 2012
cables can support up to 1Gbps, not just 30Mbit. So that's roughly only 2500 times as fast as average cable. Next to this there already is infiband and fibre which goes up to 60Gbps, making it only 42 times as fast as current standards.

Don't get me wrong, it's a marvelous invention, but ease down on the numbers here...


They are talking about cable broadband internet service, not the physical cabling itself.
Nattydread
1 / 5 (1) Jun 26, 2012
what's more interesting about this phenomena is that individual photons carry more than one unit of angular momentum. How? Does that imply the photon has substructure?
Odenetheus
not rated yet Jun 26, 2012
cables can support up to 1Gbps, not just 30Mbit. So that's roughly only 2500 times as fast as average cable. Next to this there already is infiband and fibre which goes up to 60Gbps, making it only 42 times as fast as current standards.

Don't get me wrong, it's a marvelous invention, but ease down on the numbers here...

It was a point of comparison for the average reader, not the average data center manager. Though "85,000 times more data" brings about as much intuition as "circles the Earth 7 times".


Not our fault you have a sucky connection wherever you now live... :D
vidyunmaya
1 / 5 (1) Jun 26, 2012
Very good contribution. One should search more patterns through Nature. cosmology Vedas Interlinks Complex modes.
jamesFL
5 / 5 (1) Jun 27, 2012
cables can support up to 1Gbps, not just 30Mbit. So that's roughly only 2500 times as fast as average cable. Next to this there already is infiband and fibre which goes up to 60Gbps, making it only 42 times as fast as current standards.

Don't get me wrong, it's a marvelous invention, but ease down on the numbers here...


But those connections requre more than fiber optic line in each cable. I believe they are trying to say that these speeds are for each piece of fiber glass in the cable (eventually, hopefully, theoretically).

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