New record set for laser data transfer speed

The fastest data transfer speed through a single laser has been beaten, according to a new report released. Researchers at Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have achieved a blistering speed of up to 26 terabits per second, allowing for an entire transfer of the contents of Wikipedia in mere seconds.

Speaking to BBC News, Professor Wolfgand Freude explained that the idea is based around different wavelengths of colours. The different colours interact with each other to create around 325 colours in a frequency comb. These colours can each contain their own data stream, and the laser is fired in very short pulses to create the super high speeds demonstrated. Before, the concept was tested with far less colours, and was capable of around 10 terabits per second.

50km of fibre optics were used in the experiment to test the capabilities of the system. At the other end, a technique known as Fourier transform picks apart the colour beams using optics. Different sections arrive at different times, so at this point it is a simple case of piecing together data that came in at different times.

Faster laser transfer speeds are possible, but the big news with this latest breakthrough is the fact that such a high speed was achieved using only one laser. "The problem [with previous experiments] was they didn't have just one laser, they had something like 370 lasers, which is an incredibly expensive thing. If you can imagine 370 lasers, they fill racks and consume several kilowatts of power," Freude said.

Looking towards the future, Freude speculates that the breakthrough could have far-reaching possibilities that extend even to internal computer hardware. The technology is capable of being used in a single silicon chip, Freude claims. "Nobody could have imagined 10 years ago that nowadays it would be so common to integrate relatively complicated optical circuits on to a silicon chip."

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