RMIT touts faster internet thanks to 'twisted light'

According to the university, the new nanophotonic device encodes more data and processes it much faster than conventional fibre optics by using a special form of 'twisted' light.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor on

The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) has announced a new technology it believes could allow for 100-times-faster internet.

Broadband fibre-optics carry information on pulses of light through optical fibres, but the way the light is encoded at one end and processed at the other affects data speeds. RMIT said that by harnessing "twisted light" beams, it can carry more data and process it faster.

"Present-day optical communications are heading towards a 'capacity crunch' as they fail to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of big data," Dr Haoran Ren from RMIT's School of Science 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."

According to RMIT, the nanophotonic device built by RMIT's Laboratory of Artificial-Intelligence Nanophotonics (LAIN) encodes more data and processes it much faster than conventional fibre optics by using a special form of twisted light.

Ren explained the device that has been built for reading twisted light is the missing key required to unlock super-fast, ultra-broadband communications.

"Current state-of-the-art fibre-optic communications, like those used in Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN), use only a fraction of light's actual capacity by carrying data on the colour spectrum," RMIT explained.

This latest technology, RMIT explained, carries data on light waves that have been twisted into a spiral to increase their capacity further still.

This is known as light in a state of orbital angular momentum (OAM).

"Our miniature OAM nano-electronic detector is designed to separate different OAM light states in a continuous order and to decode the information carried by twisted light," Ren continued.

"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 millimetre, our invention does this job better and fits on the end of an optical fibre."

LAIN in 2016 described how it had been able to decode a small range of twisted light on a nanophotonic chip, but at the time, technology to detect a wide range of OAM light for optical communications was not viable.

However, on Thursday, Professor Min Gu, LAIN director and Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research Innovation and Entrepreneurship at RMIT, said the materials used in the device were compatible with silicon-based materials use in most technology, which now makes it easy to scale up for industry applications.

"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. This technology's high performance, low cost and tiny size makes it a viable application for the next generation of broadband optical communications," he said.

"It fits the scale of existing fibre technology and could be applied to increase the bandwidth, or potentially the processing speed, of that fibre 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."

Gu also said the detector can be used to receive quantum information sent via twisting light.


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