Hollow Fiber Optic Tunnels Can Blast Data at Practically the Speed of Light

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We all want faster downloads, and developments like graphene antennas promise a speedy future. There is an upper limit—the speed of light—but that should be fast enough, right? Well a new kind of hollow fiber optic cable promises to get us 99.7 percent of the way there.

Developed by researchers at the University of Southampton in England, the new breed of cables makes use of good old-fashioned air to get the data really cooking. Technically, all fiber optic cables transmit data at the speed of light, but the transfer material can slow that down. And while the speed of light in air isn't close to max speed in a vacuum, it beats typical glass handily. Air-cables are 1,000 better than what we've got now, and can hit speeds of 10 terabytes per second.


Air-filled cables aren't a new idea, but in this iteration researchers have vastly improved the way light is bounced around corners, enabling not only blistering speed, but also reasonably low data loss of 3.5 dB/km. That still adds up at a distance though, so these crazy fast cables are most likely destined for supercomputer and data center applications, for now at least. But it's still a gigantic leap towards the ultimate end-game of high-speed data transmission. Then it's just a matter of rollout. [Nature via ExtremeTech]

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