How Sending Mirror Image Signals Could Speed Up the Internet

Illustration for article titled How Sending Mirror Image Signals Could Speed Up the Internet

A team of researchers has developed a technique which uses mirror images signals to dramatically increase the accuracy—and speed—of data transmission across the internet.

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The team explain in Nature Photonics how it's possible to send not one but two beams of light down a fiber cable: one the normal data signal, the other its mirror image—or, more accurately its phase conjugate. At the other end of the cable it's possible to recombine the signals in such a way that errors caused by noise in the signals is cancelled out.

The trick works in much the same way as noise-cancelling headphones, and crucially means that data can be transmitted much further before it becomes corrupted by interference. In fact, the paired beams are able to travel four times further than normal data streams, and the team has so far managed to achieve speed of 400Gb/s down 12,800km of optical fibre.

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As ever, while it sounds like a wonderful idea in theory, transferring the technology to the real world will require extra infrastructure—and it's not clear that this is the best technique to use. But it's at least comforting to know that engineers around the world are at least coming up with new ideas to satisfy our insatiable appetite for bandwidth. [Nature Photonics via BBC via Verge]

Image by nrkbeta under Creative Commons license

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DISCUSSION

Although not entirely the same, this is effectively the fiberoptic analog to using twisted pair wires for transmitting electrical signals.

Since the twisted pair is essentially collocated, any noise that a wire would be applied to both the red and black wires. To recreate the signal at the other end, just take the difference between the red and black wire and the signal will essentially be unchanged.

What makes this interesting is that rather than using two wires, they can actually do the same thing with a single fiberoptic cable.