Pasta-shaped radio waves could eliminate wireless congestion

"Twisted" radio waves can carry significantly more data and could even signal infinite Wi-Fi capacity.

It’s no wonder we have a “spectrum crisis” on our hands: In 2011 alone, global mobile data traffic more than doubled and experts estimate that traffic will increase 18-fold in the next five years.

With the explosion of digital devices, radio waves have become increasingly congested—but scientists in Italy and Sweden may have found a way to eradicate the problem completely by making a few minor tweaks to the current technology.

The key lies in changing the shape of radio waves. Scientists discovered that when twisting waves into a spiral shape, existing frequencies could hold multiple data streams instead of just one. In theory, the new technique allows for an infinite number of channels to exist in any one fixed bandwidth.

“In a three-dimensional perspective, this phase twist looks like a fusillli-pasta-shaped beam, study author Fabrizio Tamburini told PhysOrg. “Each of these twisted beams can be independently generated, propagated and detected even in the very same frequency band, behaving as independent communication channels.”

Tamburini and study co-author Bo Thide of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics demonstrated their findings outside the laboratory in Venice last June. Using twisted radio waves, the physicists were able to send two audio signals within the bandwidth required by one across the lagoon and over a distance of 442 m (1450 ft).

Perhaps best of all, the technique doesn’t require new and expensive technology. The demonstration in Venice was made using a regular satellite dish—the team simply cut one side to create a helical shape. To detect the twisted waves, an additional antenna was needed.

According to Tamburini, it’s plausible to have 55 channels in the same band of frequency. His findings are published in the New Journal of Physics.

Video: New Journal of Physics, Image: Roger Karlsson/Flickr

[via BBC]

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