A research team from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and Swinburne University of Technology (SUT) have recently invented an integrated nanophotonic chip that can effectively control twisted light to help deliver faster fibre Internet.
Although fibre technology enables the transmission of data communication at the speed of light (186,000 miles or 300,000 km per second), the information that it can transmit is limited by the amount of data that can be encoded in the light wave that travels through the fibre optic cable.
What is Angular Momentum?
When a light wave is twisted like a coil spring, it exhibits angular momentum (AM), which is a measure of its momentum when it rotates around a point. A major problem in using AM to decode the data from fibre is how to detect the twisted light. For years, scientists have been studying the process of controlling the AM of light to create parallel light beams and increasing the bandwidth of data that travel through fibre optic cables. They have struggled in finding the technology to make small chips that can manipulate the light’s AM and has the capacity of sensing and controlling the twisted light.
Nanophotonic Chip Breakthrough
RMIT and SUT researchers have developed a breakthrough nanophotonic chip with nanoscale helical structures, which can harness the angular momentum of light and immensely increase the speed of data transfer across fibre optic cables. They have created a tiny chip that can manipulate twisted light and able to control both the spin angular and orbital angular momentum of light.
According to Haoran Ren, lead author of the research project and a PhD candidate at Swinburne University, “if you send an optical data signal to a photonic chip, it is critical to know where the data is going, otherwise information will be lost. Our specially-designed nanophotonic chip can precisely guide AM data signals so they are transmitted from different mode-sorting nano-ring slits without losing any information.”
Professor Min Gu, the project team leader from RMIT University, explained that “by designing a series of elaborate nano-apertures and nano-grooves on the photonic chip, our team has enabled the on-chip manipulation of twisted light for the first time. The design removes the need for any other bulky interference-based optics to detect the AM signals.”
Gu added that “the AM information of many different signals can be processed at the same time through the chip. This means we can potentially achieve an ultra-wide bandwidth, with six-orders magnitude of increased data access compared to current technology.”
Benefits of Twisted Light Technology
The researchers are confident that this technology can pave the way for next generation optical technologies and better encryption methods. “Our discovery could open up truly compact on-chip AM applications such as ultra high definition display, ultra high capacity optical communication, and ultra secure optical encryption,” Gu emphasised.
The invention may also help in understanding how black holes interact with each other as their movements transmit orbital angular momentum of light associated with gravitational waves. “An unambiguous measuring of the OAM through the sky could lead to a more profound understanding of the evolution and nature of black holes in the universe,” Gu enthused.
Furthermore, this nano-fabrication technology breakthrough creates new perspectives in the use and control of light for ultra fast data transmissions, ultra high definition displays, ultra high capacity optical communications, and ultra secure optical encryption methods. Moreover, it can boost the communication speed of the nbn™ through the parallel processing of angular momentum.
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