If you think your home Wi-Fi connection is pretty good, think again. Scientists have been working on a new way to transmit data wirelessly, and they can now transfer a scorching 2.5 terabits of information per second.
Let us put that another way: that’s the same as transmitting seven full Blu-ray movies per second.
But how the hell do they do it? Well, the team of American and Israeli researchers have used a neat new concept, where the electromagnetic waves that usually carry data are twisted into vortex beams. ExtremeTech describes the concept well:
These twisted signals use orbital angular momentum (OAM) to cram much more data into a single stream. In current state-of-the-art transmission protocols (WiFi, LTE, COFDM), we only modulate the spin angular momentum (SAM) of radio waves, not the OAM. If you picture the Earth, SAM is our planet spinning on its axis, while OAM is our movement around the Sun. Basically, the breakthrough here is that researchers have created a wireless network protocol that uses both OAM and SAM.
The combination of the two provides some amazing possibilities. So far, the researchers, from University of Southern California, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Tel Aviv University, have twisted together eight data streams, each operating at 300Gbps, to achieve the new record of 2.5 terabits per second. At the moment, they’ve only transmitted signals as far as one metre. That should be scaled up before long — though the researchers admit 1km is probably an upper limit.
What’s perhaps most interesting is that the technique can be used to twist together an awful lot of slower data connections. The researchers, who have published their findings in Nature, explain that in theory it should be possible to twist together hundreds or even thousands of conventional LTE signals into a single beam. That ought to help address the impending bandwith crisis.
Of course, all that remains is for the team to develop the technology into something robust enough to use on a commercial scale — and there’s no telling how long that might take. [Nature via ExtremeTech]
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