Top Speed Data Transmission Brought To You By Twisted Light

Courtesy of Nature Photonics

Wild lighting is no longer just for discotheques and laser tag – it has the potential to revolutionize the way we communicate.

Researchers at the University of Southern California have found that when they combine twisted beams of light, they can transmit data at a startling speed – over 85,000 times faster than standard broadband cable. To put it in perspective, at that speed you could transmit 70 full-length DVDs in a single second.

How does it work? Alan Willner, an electrical engineering professor at USC explained it in the Nature Photonics journal in June, and I’ll explain it now.

Light is just a group of photons that the researchers could direct in infinite ways at very high speeds. The study employed beam-twisting “phase holograms” to coax the beams of light into helical shapes as they spread in free space. Each beam, twisted in a unique way, was encoded with “1” or “0” data bits, making each beam an autonomous data stream – much like different radio channels.

The experiment in the lab focused on transmitting data over free space, but the next step is to advance its use in fiber optic cables (like those used to transmit data over the internet).

The earth’s atmosphere prevents us from using this method over long distances, but in the future, it’s possible we’ll see it used for high-speed satellite communications links, short free-space terrestrial links, and even in fiber optic cables for internet service providers.

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Annie Josey

Annie was the E-Commerce Marketing Specialist at Pegasus Lighting from June 2012 to October 2013. She has a background in English literature, and loves using language to help illuminate the world. So covering lighting news and tips naturally fit her interests. In her personal time she enjoys painting, biking, and reading.

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