255 terabits a second: New fiber speed record?

Multi-strand technology may herald a speedy new world.

800px fiber optic illuminated

Researchers from the University of Central Florida and Eindhoven University of Technology say that they’ve developed a new fiber optic medium that allows data to be sent and received at up to 255Tbps, a roughly twenty-fold increase over current fiber.

The innovation, described in a paper for the current online edition of the journal Nature Photonics, lies in the use of a group of seven microstructured fibers, rather than a single one. Eindhoven University of Technology professor Chigo Okonkwo, one the paper’s principal authors, said that the individual fibers are less than 200 microns in diameter.

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The effect was described as being “like going from a one-way road to a seven-lane highway.” Additionally, the team used two additional dimensions that can be used by data, “as if three cars can drive on top of each other in the same lane.”

This obviates the problems caused by an alternative technique for increasing throughput, which simply amps up the signal’s intensity in order to cut down on lost packets – inadvertently creating artifacts and distortions that can limit those gains.

That said, ongoing work on single-fiber transmissions has created fairly high throughput using mathematic techniques for encoding multiple data streams into a lone stream of light pulses. Researchers at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology achieved 26Tbits/s in 2011, and the Technical University of Denmark reached 43Tbps earlier this year, albeit with a multi-core fiber.

Much higher speeds have been reached by purely experimental setups, involving many-cored fibers and dozens of lasers, but these are thought to be far too complex for general commercial use. NEC and Corning claimed to have achieved petabit-per-second speeds using one such setup in 2013.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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