Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Scientists twist light to send data

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 beams of light 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.
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