In a major breakthrough that can make the internet superfast and cheap, researchers have successfully increased the maximum power — and therefore distance — at which optical signals can be sent through optical fibers.
The advance has the potential to make the internet superfast by increasing data transmission rates over fiber optic cables, which serve as the backbone of the internet, cable, wireless and landline networks.
A long-standing roadblock to increasing data transmission rates in optical fiber has been that beyond a threshold power level, additional power surge irreparably distorts the information traveling in the fiber optic cable.
"Today's fiber optic systems are a little like quicksand. With fiber optics, after a certain point, the more power you add to the signal, the more distortion you get, in effect preventing a longer reach," said corresponding author Nikola Alic from the Qualcomm Institute at University of California - San Diego. "Our approach removes this power limit, which in turn extends how far signals can travel in optical fiber without needing a repeater," Alic said.
In lab experiments, the researchers successfully deciphered information after it traveled a record-breaking 12,000 km through fiber optic cables with standard amplifiers and no repeaters, which are electronic regenerators.
The new findings effectively eliminate the need for electronic regenerators placed periodically along the fiber link. The breakthrough in this study relies on wideband "frequency combs" that the researchers developed.
The frequency comb ensures that the signal distortions called ‘Crosstalks’ that arises between bundled streams of information traveling long distances through the optical fiber are predictable, and therefore, reversible at the receiving end of the fiber.
"We have presented a method for leveraging the crosstalk to remove the power barrier for optical fiber," the authors said.