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The Latest Innovation In Fiber Optic Technology? Silicon Nanoparticles

Vito Conenna, VP of Engineering
August 17, 2016

Exciting news for the world of telecommunications: a team of researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the Australian National University have discovered a potential new way to boost the efficiency of fiber optics in telecom

The crux of the research, notes IEEE Spectrum, revolves around something called the Raman scattering effect, in which "light interacts with certain materials to produce longer or shorter wavelengths.” This effect is essential to fiber optic telecommunications—it enables the boosting of signals through long stretches of fiber optic cable.

As IEEE Spectrum explains in its overview of the research, to date, most communication has depended on metallic nanoparticles to induce the Raman effect. The researchers have discovered a way to use silicon nanoparticles to induce a similar effect at a much higher efficiency. Initial experiments found that these particles produced a Raman emission intensity 100 times greater than what's currently being used.

One of the biggest downsides to fiber optic communication is that signals degrade over time; to be useful over long distances, the signal must be boosted in some way. Researchers hope this technology could be useful in greatly lengthening the distance between repeaters on a fiber optic line, or potentially in eliminating the need for repeaters entirely.

In fact, this isn't the only recent breakthrough in fiber optic telecommunication. Just last summer, electrical engineers transmitted information over a fiber optic cable 12,000 kilometers long without any repeater—an impressive feat, to say the least. Though the technology used in that experiment was different, it's nonetheless another exciting example of the enormous potential for innovation in fiber optics today.

Both this approach of using silicon nanoparticles and the techniques used to transmit data over extremely long distances without repeaters have a long way to go before they’re commercially viable, but they both open the door for exciting breakthroughs as they come closer to reality. Faster, more efficient data transmission could enable greater speeds across greater lengths than ever before. As the world grows more connected and dependent on fast access to data every day, these types of breakthroughs paint an exciting picture for the future of communication.

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