Information can now be sent through fiber optic cables faster than ever before. Engineers at the University of Illinois have broken records by transmitting data through fiber optic cables at 57 gigabits per second (Gbps) at room temperature without any errors. They also achieved 50 Gbps speeds at temperatures up to 85 degrees Celsius (185 degrees Fahrenheit), which was especially challenging and noteworthy since the materials perform best in colder environments.
They accomplished this by improving the vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (oxide-VCSEL) technology that underpins fiber optic communications systems. Milton Feng, an electrical and computer engineering professor who led the effort explains why this breakthrough is important:
Our big question has always been, how do you make information transmit faster? There is a lot of data out there, but if your data transmission is not fast enough, you cannot use data that’s been collected; you cannot use upcoming technologies that use large data streams, like virtual reality. The direction toward fiber-optic communication is going to increase because there’s a higher speed data rate, especially over distance.
Feng and his colleagues presented their research at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition on March 22 in Anaheim, California. The team hopes to prove that high-speed data transfer can be achieved, even at high temperatures. The research could be used to expand fiber optic technology to data centers and air planes. “We believe this could be very useful for industry,” said Feng. “That’s what makes the work so important to us.”