Breakthrough fibre technology offers faster internet

More than 10 million home internet connections can now be carried through one optical fibre as thick as a strand of human hair.

A global team of researchers has set a speed record for an industry-standard optical fibre, achieving the combined speed of 17 million NBN broadband internet connections over a fibre as long as the distance from Sydney to the Blue Mountains.

An optical fibre is a flexible, transparent fibre made by drawing glass or plastic, used most often as a means to transmit light between the two ends of the fibre.

Fibres permit transmission over longer distances and at higher bandwidths than electrical cables.

The fibre developed by the researchers uses less digital processing and greatly reduces the power required to transmit information with its 19 cores – the part of the fibre that guides the light.

Macquarie University researchers developed a glass chip, which was essential to the creation of a 19-core optical fibre.

“Decades of optics research around the world has allowed the industry to push more and more data through single fibres,” Simon Gross from the university’s School of Engineering said.

“They’ve used different colours, different polarisations, light coherence and many other tricks to manipulate light.

“I hope we’ll see this technology in sub-sea cables within five to 10 years.”

Dr Gross says the fibre will be able to meet growing demand for movement of data.

Most current fibres have a single core that carries multiple light signals, but this current technology is limited because of interference between the signals.

The first sub-sea fibre-optic cable in 1988 across the Atlantic had a capacity of 40,000 telephone calls in two pairs of fibres.

Known as TAT 8, it came just in time to support the development of the worldwide web, but it was soon at capacity.

Macquarie University’s Professor Michael Withford believes this breakthrough in optical fibre technology has far-reaching implications beyond internet usage.

He said it could help find planets orbiting distant stars, detect diseases, and even identify damage in sewage pipes.

The fibre was developed by the Japanese National Institute of Information and Communications Technology and Sumitomo Electric Industries, with the Eindhoven University of Technology, University of L’Aquila and Macquarie University.


Joanna Guelas
(Australian Associated Press)


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