Life Tech ‘Groundbreaking’: Twisted fibre optic technology could make internet speeds 100 times faster
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‘Groundbreaking’: Twisted fibre optic technology could make internet speeds 100 times faster

Researchers have developed tiny readers that can detect information in light spirals. Photo: Getty
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A new development in fibre optics is being touted by researchers as providing internet speeds up to 100 times faster than the existing network.

The research published in the journal, Nature Communications, explains how a nanophotonic device could be used to easily upgrade existing networks and boost efficiency.

According to RMIT’s Laboratory of Artificial Intelligence Nanophotonics (LAIN) Professor Min Gu, the technology was a breakthrough in fibre optics technology.

“The device works by twisting light into a spiral, which allows engineers to create a third dimension for light to carry information,” Professor Gu told The New Daily.

“This means we can measure 100 times more information by delivering the signal 100 times faster,” he said.

Researchers in the United States had previously created a fibre that could twist light, but Professor Gu’s team is the first to create a reasonable-size detector that can read the information it holds.

Professor Gu said the technology could be used to upgrade fibre optic networks such as Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN). 

“It fits the scale of existing fibre technology and it 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,” he said.

“This easy scalability and the massive impact it will have on telecommunications is what’s so exciting.” 

Professor Gu said the detector could also be used to receive quantum information sent via twisting light, meaning it could have applications in a range of cutting-edge, quantum communications and computing research.

“Our nano-electronic device will unlock the full potential of twisted light for future optical and quantum communications.”

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The twisted light technology could be used to upgrade the NBN. Photo: Getty

Dr Haoran Ren, from RMIT’s School of Science, who co-authored the paper, said the device could also also help with processing large amounts of data.

“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 Ren 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.”

But Dr Mark Gregory, electronic and telecommunications associate professor at RMIT University, told The New Daily faster internet speeds using the device would only become a reality if the NBN upgraded its technology.

“The NBN currently operates on a transmission system called Gigabit Passive Optical Networking (GPON) but other countries are already using the next-generation technology (NG-PON2),” Dr Gregory said. 

The NBN rollout is scheduled to be completed Australia wide by 2020.

Dr Gregory said the current network was a “significant downgrade” on the initial plan put forward by Labor, which was fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP).

Instead, many homes are connected with fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) which has produced slower speeds,” he said. 

He said Australia’s internet had fallen behind those of its competitors in the global digital economy.

“If we don’t get fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) urgently then we’re going to keep slipping further behind,” he said.

“Already the United States has more FTTP-connected homes than what Australia has and it’s really time to address this issue.”

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