Industry Focus - Optical Connections 2020


2019: A YEAR OF INNOVATION If nothing else, 2019 was a year of innovation in an industry which is still exploring the possibilities of light as a transmission medium. From controlling light in new ways to developing new materials and techniques for keeping optical communications secure, researchers have made some major breakthroughs which could have massive implications for the industry in the coming months and years.

CONTROLLING THE SPEED OF LIGHT – AND SENDING IT BACKWARDS Researchers at the University of Central Florida, US, have developed a way to control the speed of light. Not only can they speed up a pulse of light and slow it down, they can also make it travel backwards. The results were published recently in the journal Nature Communications. This achievement is a major step in research that could one day lead to more efficient optical communication, as the technique could be used to alleviate data congestion and prevent information loss. With more and more devices coming online and data transfer rates becoming higher, this sort of control will be necessary. Read the full story here. MANIPULATING LIGHT – WITH FOAM An analysis by Princeton researchers has shown that a type of foam, long studied by scientists, is able to block particular wavelengths of light. This is acknowledged as a highly desirable property for next-generation information

technology that uses light instead of electricity. The researchers, integrating expertise from materials science, chemistry and physics, conducted exhaustive computational simulations of a structure known as a Weaire-Phelan foam. They found that this foam would allow some frequencies of light to pass through, while completely reflecting others. The selective blocking, known as a photonic band gap, is similar to the behaviour of a semiconductor. Read the full story here. BREAKTHROUGH IN HOLLOW- CORE FIBRE The University of Southampton’s Optoelectronic Research Centre (ORC), based in the Zepler Institute of Photonics and Nanoelectronics (UK), has announced significant breakthroughs in hollow-core fibre (HCF) technology. It presented its “record results” in sessions at the ECOC conference in Dublin. Hollow-core fibres are optical fibres where the conventional glass in the core is replaced by a gas or vacuum. These fibres, with a so-called “holey” centre, have interested scientists and

engineers around the world for decades owing to their special properties, which include faster light speed and thus less information delay than glass-based counterparts. Such fibres also have the potential for lower loss and higher data transmission capacity than the conventional all-solid glass optical fibres in use today. Read the full story here. TURNING OFF BACKSCATTERING TO IMPROVE OPTICAL DATA TRANSMISSION Engineers at the University of Illinois have found a way to redirect misfit light waves to reduce energy loss during optical data transmission. In a study, researchers exploited an interaction between light and sound waves to suppress the scattering of light from material defects – which could lead to improved fibre optic communication. Their findings are published in the OSA journal Optica. Light waves scatter when they encounter obstacles, be it a crack in a window or a tiny flaw in a fibre optic cable. Much of that light scatters out of the system, but some of it scatters back toward



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