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Communications The Internet Science

'Corkscrew' Light Could Turbocharge Internet 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the another-bright-screwy-idea dept.
ananyo writes "Twisty beams of light could boost the traffic-carrying capacity of the Internet, effectively adding new levels to the information superhighway, suggests new research. In the last few years, different groups of researchers have tried to encode information in the shape of light beams to ease congestion, using a property of light called orbital angular momentum. Currently, a straight beam of light is used to transmit Internet signals, but certain filters can twist it so that it corkscrews around with varying degrees of curliness as it travels. Previous experiments using this effect have found that differently shaped light beams tend to jumble together after less than a meter. Now, a team of researchers from Boston University in Massachusetts and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles has found a way to keep the different light beam shapes separated for a record 1.1 kilometers. The most imminent use of the cables, the authors say, might be to install them to span the short distances between servers on giant 'server farms', used by large Web companies such as Facebook."
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'Corkscrew' Light Could Turbocharge Internet

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  • I saw a piece on this back in the early 90s on Daily Planet - I could never find it again and no one else seemed to remember it. Glad to know I'm not crazy!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's definitely a cool idea, but sheesh, this is Slashdot, people! We don't need a kindergartner's description of how the Internet and fiber optics work.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)
      ...But we do apparently need to be told what Hadoop is, or Drupal, or Ruby on Rails, or even SSH. There's always somebody complaining about too much simplification, and always somebody complaining about too little. Perhaps we could just learn to infer and ignore as appropriate for our level of prior knowledge?
  • It's 2013, does that make the term "Information Superhighway" retro?

  • If this needs new cables then maybe in the data center but installing them all over place will cost a lot + all the hardware that will need to be updated.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Basically this has been done before, but it isn't very effective because it only retains its information carrying capacity for very short distances. What these guys have done is made the information coherent for over a kilometer. It could theoretically go for longer, but their cable was only made about a kilometer long. While interesting, it would require replacing cables rather than being useful for existing cables.

      • by Gription (1006467)
        It is kind of silly to focus on the need to switch cables since you would have swap the equipment that the cables plug into to get something capable of coding/decoding the information on each end.

        Kind of like complaining, "But I'll have to get new shoe laces!" when you are buying shoes.
        • by jkflying (2190798)

          Generally, the equipment on the end is the shoelace and the cable is the shoe. How much do you think it costs to lay a mile of fibre?

          • by Gription (1006467)

            Generally, the equipment on the end is the shoelace and the cable is the shoe. How much do you think it costs to lay a mile of fibre?

            From the RTFA dept...

            The most imminent use of the cables, the authors say, might be to install them to span the short distances between servers on giant 'server farms', used by large Web companies such as Facebook.

            Not germane to the subject seeing that I haven't seen a server farm that is more then a mile across...

            • by jkflying (2190798)

              Which is precisely why it is being targeted at server farms: the cost of pulling up already-lain fibre in outdoor settings just isn't worth it, even with this additional capacity available.

    • Not any longer. I work at a telco and a while back we got smarter. Rather than bury strait fiber, and have to dig it up when technology changes, we now bury flexible PVC tubing that the fiber rides in. When we need to change it, rather than dig it up at great expense, we find the particular fiber we want to replace, and just pull it out of the housing by hand. Then we use a device that shoots the new fiber through to the other side with compressed air. It's really neat to watch several miles of cable just p

    • From the summary:

      The most imminent use of the cables, the authors say, might be to install them to span the short distances between servers on giant 'server farms', used by large Web companies such as Facebook."

  • by slew (2918) on Friday June 28, 2013 @02:18PM (#44135319)

    People are probably beter off reading the wiki [wikipedia.org]...

    Key bit of information...

    OAM multiplexing can not be implemented in the existing long-haul optical fiber systems, since these systems are based on single-mode fibers, which inherently do not support OAM states of light. Instead, few-mode or multi-mode fibers need to be used. Additional problem for OAM multiplexing implementation is caused by the mode coupling that is present in the fiber, making direct-detection OAM multiplexing still not being realized in long-haul communications. In some specialty fibers, OAM states were transmitted with 97% purity after 20 meters.

    Basically this demonstration technique uses specially designed fibers that can carry the "donut" TEM mode required for OAM which is the reason they made a comment that the most likely for fibers the implement this technique "might be to install them to span the short distances between servers on giant 'server farms'"...

    • by Guspaz (556486)

      Is there actually any capacity crunch on the physical fiber itself that makes it worth replacing? My understanding is that existing DWDM hardware can pump multiple terabits per second through a single fiber strand, and that the reason pumping a terabit through fiber requires multiple transceivers is simply because the electronics can't drive data rates, not because of any limitation of the fiber...

      It seems that OAM would have the same problem; you still need electronics that don't exist if you want to push

  • Since this was created at a University it is unclear on which company will attempt to patent it first. Any bets? Should be start a pool?
    • Since this was created at a University it is unclear on which company will attempt to patent it first. Any bets? Should be start a pool?

      Why wouldn't the university patent this? That would be what normally happens.

    • My bet is Apple will try. but it doesn't matter who patents it now because the university already holds prior art due to having published the scientific paper first. There is no rule that a university cannot hold a patent, the only shitty thing is if a student was the one that actually invented it, it's his professor that will take credit as the inventor. That's why you wait till you graduate before you invent shit.

  • If they ever got the distance extended, I could see this being handy for long-haul links (although is it really better than a CWDM or DWDM?) But over intra-rack links, it'd have to have a pretty small premium over current technologies to be able to justify using it over just laying another strand of fiber.

    In all but HPC applications bandwidth is rarely an issue anyway. You might occasionally use those for trunk lines, but again, why not just lay another strand?

    • by Shatrat (855151)

      Laying another cable is crushingly expensive, but you're right this technique is still so vastly inferior to WDM that nobody is seriously pursuing it outside of science projects.

    • It seems at least plausible that this could be used in conjunction with some form of WDM to get higher densities than either alone.

  • Do they realize how much fiber is lit at gigabit and below? 10ge is hitting mainstream and 40 and 100 following on quickly. CWDM is dirt cheap and DWDM is getting there as well. Replacing all the long haul fiber is a non starter could be useful in 100ge short reach dropping it from 10 or 4 lanes to 2.

    One the physical side 25gbps looks to be the plateau we are hitting 16 lanes gets 400ge ports.

  • Curve the bullet.
  • I don't understand (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    How corkscrewing light will turbocharge anything...

    Will the exhaust light impact an impeller that then compresses the light on the other side?

    Because (I direct this to every idiot who mis-uses the term "turbocharge") THAT is what a TURBOCHARGER is.
    A compressor that is powered by exhaust gas.

    If whatever damn device you are speeding up does not contain:
    an waste exhaust-driven impeller
    an impeller driven compressor
    then it is NOT turbocharging. /end of rant

  • Works great as long as all your cables are perfectly straight. If you want to bend the cable, you need to plug it into an angled repeater.
    The repeater, of course, requires an external power source.

  • This sounds like what these guys were doing: http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/12/06/25/1215246/twisted-oam-beams-carry-25-terabits-per-second [slashdot.org]

    Not sure if its the same groups or not, but pretty much the same idea.

  • This is just a dumb idea and a waste of investors' money. The technology already exists to put many colors on the same fiber and unlike optical modes (which is what they're really talking about) colors don't change over distance or bleed into one another.

We don't know one millionth of one percent about anything.

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