World-First Tiny Nanophotonic Device to Allow 100-Times-Faster Internet

The novel nano-electronic detector can transmit data via light at its highest capacity meaning bandwidth capability will see a massive increase.
Loukia Papadopoulos

We live in a speed-obsessed era and nowhere is this truer than when it comes to our internet. Indeed when online, we seem to have no patience at all and with the ever-increasing infiltration of Big Data, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things, things are about to get much worse!


Lucky for us a new world-first innovation promises to make our internet journeys faster than ever, 100 times faster in fact. This novel invention is a nanophotonic device that uses a special form of ‘twisted’ light in order to encode more data and process it much faster than ever possible with today's traditional fiber optics.

The device comes from Australia's global university of technology and design RMIT. It is the work of a team of researchers led by Dr Haoran Ren from the institution's School of Science and Dr Zengji Yue, Associate Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong and it is set to forever change optical communications.

Avoiding a capacity crunch 

“Present-day optical communications are heading towards a 'capacity crunch' as they fail to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of Big Data,” Ren said. “What we’ve managed to do is accurately transmit data via light at its highest capacity in a way that will allow us to massively increase our bandwidth.”

Conventional broadband fiber-optics carry information on pulses of light through optical fibers which means the process' speed is affected by the way the light is encoded at one end and processed at the other. RMIT's nanophotonic device instead has the capacity to read twisted light using the oscillation of light waves to encode data.

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This means it can unlock so much more of light’s actual data-carrying capacity than just the color spectrum accessed by current broadband technologies. It does this by carrying the data on light waves that have been twisted into a spiral, a state referred to as orbital angular momentum (OAM).

An eye that can see 'twisted' light

"Our OAM nano-electronic detector is like an ‘eye’ that can ‘see’ information carried by twisted light and decode it to be understood by electronics," said RMIT Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research Innovation and Entrepreneurship Min Gu. The device is essentially designed to differentiate between varied OAM light states in a continuous order in order to extract the data they carry.

Up to now, this impressive ability was deemed as simply not viable. “To do this previously would require a machine the size of a table, which is completely impractical for telecommunications. By using ultrathin topological nanosheets measuring a fraction of a millimeter, our invention does this job better and fits on the end of an optical fiber," explained Ren.

Best of all, the device's materials are compatible with today's popular silicon-based options meaning the possibility for industry applications scaling is very accessible. “This technology’s high performance, low cost and tiny size makes it a viable application for the next generation of broadband optical communications,” Gu said.

“It fits the scale of existing fiber technology and could be applied to increase the bandwidth, or potentially the processing speed, of that fiber by over 100 times within the next couple of years. This easy scalability and the massive impact it will have on telecommunications is what’s so exciting," elaborated the professor. 

The paper was published in Nature Communications.



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