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Chalmers University of Technology has created a compact amplifier that could revolutionize optical communication

Oct, 2021

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The new amplifier has a high performance, is small enough to fit into a millimeter-sized chip, and most importantly, does not emit excessive noise.

Optical communication allows for the transmission of data over large distances. The technology can be used in a variety of applications, including space communication as well as internet traffic fiber optic cables. For instance, users could swiftly relay high-resolution photographs from Mars using light communication rather than radio waves. Information might be delivered at great speeds from a planet's transmitter to a receiver on Earth or the Moon using laser beams. Optical communication also enables us to access the internet from anywhere on the planet, whether the signal is sent by optical fiber cables beneath the seafloor or wirelessly.

Even though light loses power as it travels between two distant sites, a high number of optical amplifiers are required. Within 100 kilometers of an optical fiber cable without amplifiers, around 99 % of the signal would be lost. Furthermore, a well-known issue in optical communication is that such amplifiers introduce additional noise, which degrades the quality of the signal one wants to send or receive greatly. The Chalmers researchers have now presented an extremely promising solution to a decades-old problem.

The project's light amplification is founded on the Kerr effect, which is presently the only known method of amplifying light without creating considerable surplus noise. The concept has been shown before, but never in such a small package—previous iterations were too large to be effective. Furthermore, the new amplifiers provide a high enough degree of performance that they may be used selectively, making them a more cost-effective solution. They also operate in a continuous wave (CW) mode rather than a pulsed mode.

According to the lead researcher, Peter Andrekson, the new findings also open the door to completely new uses in both technology and research. The amplifier performs at a level that is unheard of. They see this as a significant step forward in terms of practical use, not just in communication but also in fields such as quantum computers, various sensor systems, and metrology when taking atmospheric readings from satellites for Earth monitoring.

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