Electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego are working on a method to more than double the capacity of long-distance, backbone optical Internet connections while reducing both the latency (transmission delay) and cost of those links. That’s alot of data…capacity.
The new technology addresses limitations due to the “Kerr Effect” or quadradic electro-optic effect (QEO effect), which is a change in the refractive index of a material caused by an electric field. In the case of an optical fiber, the electric field is due to the light signal itself. This refractive index variation, responsible of a number of nonlinear optical effects such as, self-focusing, modulation instability and self-phase modulation, is especially pronounced with the high irradiance from high-powered laser sources typically used in long-distance optical transmission networks. The UC San Diego engineer’s invention uses custom wideband “frequency combs” that work in conjunction with externally modulated optical sources that “condition” the information signal at the launch point. Together, these techniques essentially eliminate the cross-talk that would otherwise result from the Kerr Effect.
According to Cisco, by the end of 2016 the amount of globally transmitted internet data will hit one zettabyte or 1 billion terabytes. Until then, we’ll have to wait and see what breakthroughs 2016 will bring for our data.
This breakthrough could substantially reduce the Internet gridlock that could occur otherwise, so it’s easy to see why Google is supporting this research.