Emerging advances in fibre optic technology
Fibre optic technology is gaining more prominence in our digital world flooded with copious amounts of data and a seemingly boundless need for more. Big data and data analytics, among others are driving the quest for more bandwidth and faster broadband in the current participatory and sharing digital culture.
Most of our activities such as Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Team video conferences, Internet searches and social media site visits are routinely conducted online, and all involve heavy data traffic.
Multi-core fibre cables
The increasing use of fibre optics is mainly due to the impressive developments in physics in recent years. Researchers achieved astonishing data transfer speeds of 255 TBPS and developing technology may be able to carry all the world’s data on just one fibre cable. These researchers used a multi-core glass fibre rather than a single-core fibre for transferring an incredible amount of data at such a high speed.
Although multi-core fibre cables are an emerging technology, most telecom and Internet companies have been planning to upgrade their cables to carry data up to a speed of 400 GBPS, a massive increase compared to the current speed of 10 GBPS.
Compared to copper wires, fibre optic cables are far better since light transmission are mostly hack proof. Cable tapping is practically impossible, and interference only occurs when cables are physically broken. Data breaches are immediately identified, and from a security perspective, fibre optic cables are superior to legacy technology using copper wires as the backbone.
Fibre optic cables are much thinner and lighter compared to copper cables and from a design perspective, wrapping them in a protective coating and suspending them from poles are easier.
Fibre optic cables are protected from most types of threats such as radiofrequency and electromagnetic interference, and impedance or crosstalk. They are also not as vulnerable to changes in temperature as copper wires which means that fibre optic cables are more reliable and durable.
The aspects mentioned above are evidence of how fibre optics is changing the way in which business is conducted, how we entertain ourselves through, for example online gaming or using streaming services such as Netflix and stay informed.
Technological findings recently published by scientists in the peer reviewed journal, Nature Communications have the potential to upgrade existing networks and significantly bolster efficiency. Current fibre optic technology consists of optical fibres made from glass or plastic no thicker than a human hair. Optical fibres have two parts: a core where the light passes through and a cladding which is wrapped around the core and which is made from thicker plastic or glass.
The two parts work in tandem to create a phenomenon called total internal reflection which is how light moves horizontally and vertically along the glass or plastic without escaping. Optical amplifiers boost their signal so that no data is lost. Fibre optics thus use light pulses to transmit information stored.
Engineers effectively create a third dimension for light to carry information and by twisting light into a spiral referred to as orbital angular momentum, or spin. “It’s like DNA, if you look at the double helix spiral,” said Min Gu from RMIT University. “The more you can use angular momentum the more information you can carry.”
Although researchers in the US had previously created a fibre that could twist light, Gu’s team was the first to create a reasonable-size detector that can read the information it holds. Previous detectors were “the size of a dining table”, but the new detector is the width of a human hair. “We could produce the first chip that could detect this twisting and display it for mobile application,” Gu said.
Optical fibres current cover an array of applications ranging from biomedical, telemedicine, and industrial (automation, sensors, etc.), to space, automotive and, telecommunication (voice, data, television, music, video, etc.), from houses to super-capacity backbone pipes. Optical fibre technology allows versatility, immunity to external parasitical radiation, and the capacity to transmit unrivalled flows of data.
With new applications in sight in a variety of other domains than telecommunications, there is no doubt that the future holds several exciting technological challenges for optical fibres. They require widespread acceptance from equipment manufacturers and network operators before they are ready for operational deployment.
Singh and Sharma (2019) indicate that future technology could involve the use of natural silk or a similar artificial silk and jacket of that silk can be made from the Graphene material to save the bundling of an optical fibre. This will reduce the physical traffic of optical fibre cables. “It will meet the modern designs and architecture and high bandwidth carrying capacity communication channels (Singh and Sharma 2019:76).
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