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Data transmission speed of 2.56 Tb/s achieved by twisting beams of light


June 26, 2012

By using twisted beams of light, researchers have achieved data transmission speeds of up ...

By using twisted beams of light, researchers have achieved data transmission speeds of up to 2.56 terabits per second (Image: Shutterstock)

Thankfully, data transmission speeds have come a long way since the days of dial-up when users would have plenty of time to twiddle their thumbs as they waited for an image or MP3 to make its way to their hard drive. These days, broadband cable currently supports speeds of around 30 megabits per second, which is a hell of an improvement. Now researchers have outdone that by a factor of around 85,000 by using twisted beams of light to transmit data at up to 2.56 terabits per second.

The system developed by the multi-national team led by the University of Southern California (USC) involved transmitting data twisted beams of light at ultra-high speeds. Using beam-twisted “phase holograms,” they manipulated eight beams of light so that each one twisted in a DNA-like helical shape as it propagated in free space. With each beam having its own twist that can be encoded with “1” and “0” data bits, they formed eight independent data streams.

Because the system could be used in high-speed satellite communication links, they attempted to simulate the sort of communications that might occur between satellites in space by transmitting data over open space in a lab. The system also has the potential to be used in short free-space terrestrial links, or to be adapted for use in fiber optic cables like those used by some Internet service providers.

While not quite at the world record-breaking data transmission speed of 26 terabits per second achieved last year by a team from Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the latest effort is still impressive.

“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. “We didn’t invent the twisting of light, but we took the concept and ramped it up to a terabit-per-second.”

Willner is the author of an article about the research that was published in Nature Photonics on June 24.

Source: USC

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick

If it was 8 beams in the same physical space, I'd be impressed. If it eight parallel beams, then what's the big deal?

Kumi Alexander
26th June, 2012 @ 03:51 am PDT

Yes, of course a fantastic achievement....just the point about max broadband being 30Mb/sec.....there are plenty of places around the globe where there is fibre to the home offering up to 1Gb/sec.

26th June, 2012 @ 04:12 am PDT

And then, there are places in the world where you're lucky to get 5Mb/sec, like here in Mexico, where I have that speed with "Premium" cable.

Tom Phoghat Sobieski
26th June, 2012 @ 09:13 am PDT

"Yes, of course a fantastic achievement....just the point about max broadband being 30Mb/sec.....there are plenty of places around the globe where there is fibre to the home offering up to 1Gb/sec."

professore - June 26, 2012 @ 04:12 am PDT

While there are probably lots of places where 1Gb/sec is offered, I get the impression that very few actually provide that. They usually offer "up to" 1 Gb/sec so as long as they don't actually provide you a better rate, they are telling the truth. I used to have a connection icon on my task bar that said I was connected "at 100 MB per second"--all the time. Needless to say it never got anywhere near that--ever.

Snake Oil Baron
26th June, 2012 @ 09:23 am PDT

I'm lucky if I get 1.5 Mb/sec. This sounds like the Monty Python sketch!

What is annoying is there are houses just down the road from me, and they get 24. So, stop moaning everyone.

26th June, 2012 @ 10:14 am PDT

It's true that we never get what's on the tin, but I do feel an improvement. For me, the criteria is that YouTube should play smoothly.

Dawar Saify
26th June, 2012 @ 11:17 am PDT

Truly this is impressive but, it is only important to intranet connections for government and research facilities. What would be more important to the every day consumer would be finding a method to reduce cost to the provider thus reducing the end cost to the consumer.

Vasco Regula
26th June, 2012 @ 11:58 am PDT

My uncle gets such low broadband that he has to download porn via carrier pigeon.

The big question is whether cable companies will make the switch or stall people in case a better technology comes out a few years down the road from when this twisty light hits the market. They could just tell customers that the rates they have are fine for everyone who is not a pirate or a pedophile and most basic web and e-mail users will buy it. They know that if someone starts up a rival company they can drop their prices faster than the newcomers can roll out an infrastructure.

Snake Oil Baron
26th June, 2012 @ 01:36 pm PDT

You can't compare something like this to a an inexpensive residential connection and it doesn't sound like the technology is suitable for transmission over long distances where aggregate data rates really matter.

There is technology on the market that will do several TB over single mode fiber with Raman amplification over huge distances.

In 2009 bell labs completed a test of 155 100G channels (15.5 TB/s) over a 7000 km fiber.

26th June, 2012 @ 10:23 pm PDT
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