Researchers have demonstrated a new way to increase the data speeds of optical fibres which may lead to a faster Internet. "Optical fibres can be sped up by 'twisting' data; multiple data streams are transmitted and received as different twists of light," said Giovanni Milione, a doctoral student at the City College of New York at the time of the research.
"Thought impossible using standard optical fibres which untwist the data, corrupting it, we showed that if the data was digitally re-twisted, after it was received, it could be recovered," Milione said. To digitally re-twist the data, the researchers borrowed a well-known technique of radio communication, referred to as 'MIMO,' used by cell phones and Wi-Fi routers every day.
"Light's twists were treated like antennas. Even if transmitted data was untwisted, it was received as a different twist (antenna) and recovered," Milione said. The researchers successfully transmitted four data streams on four twists of light over 5 kilometres of standard optical fibre.
A key to their experiment was a University of Glasgow-made device that separates and combines light's twists as a prism does colour.
"This development could offer a solution to the insatiable needs of data-driven social media, such as, Facebook and YouTube, which continually push optical fibre data speed limits," said Distinguished Professor of Physics Robert R Alfano at City College of New York. The research appears in the journal Nature: Scientific Reports.