Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Faster Optical Communications?

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Faster Optical Communications?

Article excerpt

Results from experiments conducted at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) may lead to profound changes in optical communications. The discovery is reported in the journal Science.

Physicist Mark Sherwin at UCSB explains that as information technology advances, scientists are intent on transmitting information much more quickly. "We are working toward sending information 100 times faster than it can be sent now," he says. His research group has spent five years on this project. The experiments were performed using the university's roomsized, free-electron laser.

"We took an existing semiconductor device that is essentially an electrically controlled shutter and we have tried to open and close the shutter at the rate of three trillion times a second," he explains. "We found that in addition to opening and closing the shutter we are making the shutter itself vibrate."

Those vibrations of the shutter may enable the shutter to be opened and closed with weak light beams rather than strong voltages, says Sherwin. In optical communications there are different channels of communications, so these light beams could correspond to different channels. …

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