The industry is abuzz with the speed of Thunderbolt transmissions, just as it was excited about USB 3.0 and SATA 6.0 Gbps (SATA III) when they appeared, but twisted light puts them all to shame.
Twisted light is a technology that has few to no practical implementations yet, but which could completely revolutionize technology as we know it.
Indeed, twisted light transfers data so fast that it makes it hard for data processors and memory to keep up, not the other way around.
A team of researchers from the University of Southern California is behind the latest milestone in twisted light development.
Led by electrical engineering professor Alan Willner, the group improved upon existing technology and reached a throughput of 2.56 terabits per second over a distance of about five feet.
Long-range fiber optics cables
, short terrestrial links and high-speed satellite communications are the fields likely to benefit the most from this achievement.
And now we finally reach the point where we describe what the technology actually does. According to Willner, “phase holograms” carry data bits (zeroes and ones) very quickly on eight beams of light. Said beams are arranged into a helix resembling DNA (each beam carries one bit).
“We didn’t invent the twisting of light, but we took the concept and ramped it up to a terabit-per-second,” Willner said
. “You’re able to do things with light that you can’t do with electricity. That’s the beauty of light; it’s a bunch of photons that can be manipulated in many different ways at very high speed.”
To help further with putting things into perspective, the test resulted in data transfer speeds 85,000 times faster than broadband Internet. And to be clear, the aforementioned 2.56 terabits were carried through a single beam of light.
Assuming processors and storage devices become fast enough, 70 DVDs worth of data will eventually be possible to transfer in the same amount of time as a random document.