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The days of slow internet speeds may soon be a thing of the past, if a new scientific discovery is any indication.
Australian researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology said that they have invented fiber optic technology that could increase internet bandwidth by 100 times — or more.
Traditional broadband fiber optic technology carries information through light (which, of course, travels at the speed of light). But according to Engineering.com, the way that this light is encoded and processed can affect data speeds.
There is a quantum property of light that, when harnessed, could significantly increase the amount of light that can travel through a fiber optic cable. It involves using light waves that are “twisted” along a spiral to increase their overall capacity, Engineering.com points out. This is called orbital angular momentum, or OAM.
But until now, there wasn’t a feasible way to properly process and decode twisted light on a small enough scale to be effective. That’s where RMIT’s research comes in.
The findings, published in journal Nature Communications, outlines a way of sizing down the technology. Once, such a system would have needed a mechanism “the size of a dinner table.” Now, RMIT scientists have figured out how to put it in a single, tiny chip, Australia Financial Review reported.
While RMIT’s system uses the aforementioned twisted light systems, the missing key was the tiny nanophotonic device that RMIT researchers have invented.
“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,” Dr. Haoran Ren, one of the paper’s co-authors, told Engineering.com.
According to Ren, the researchers used “ultrathin topological nanosheets measuring a fraction of a millimeter” to power their invention, which can fit on the end of an optical fiber — making it practical for use in telecommunications.
The technology can also feasibly scale up and applied to existing infrastructure to increase bandwidth and processing speed of fiber optic systems up to a factor of 100. This could all happen within a couple of years, researchers said.
“This easy scalability and the massive impact it will have on telecommunications is what’s so exciting,” said Professor Min Gu, Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research Innovation and Entrepreneurship at RMIT.