Researchers have made a breakthrough toward fiber optic internet cables that would be capable of providing internet as much as 100 times faster than current speeds. The technology models the cables on the double-helix structure of DNA, using the spiral pattern to provide a third dimension in which information can be conveyed, according to Popular Mechanics.
Fiber optic cables use light pulses to transmit information. The pulses bounce off both sides of the glass cables. Information is stored through the color of the light pulses and through either horizontal or vertical waves. The spiral shape would allow information to be conveyed by the level of orbital angular momentum, also called spin.
The upgrades could easily be applied to existing fiber optic networks, which already provide internet access around the world.
The researchers, at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, built on earlier research in the US. Those researchers created fiber optic cables that can twist pulses of light, but the detector was “the size of a dining table.” The new research created a detector the width of a human hair, along the lines of traditional fiber optics.
“We could produce the first chip that could detect this twisting and display it for mobile application,” according to Min Gu, a professor at RMIT who led the research team.
“It’s like DNA, if you look at the double helix spiral. The more you can use angular momentum the more information you can carry,” Gu explained, speaking to The Guardian.
In Australia, where a new fiber optic network is scheduled to be completed by 2020, the government has downgraded its initial plan to install speedy, “fiber to the premises” connections directly into homes. Instead, many connections will use “fiber to the node,” which is slower and less affordable, using copper wire to connect households to a central node in each neighborhood. Earlier this year, the government admitted many of these homes will not be able to access top-tier internet speeds.
Gu says the new technology could be used to upgrade the network.
“We will definitely reduce this hurdle. We will make this transfer more efficient,” he said.
Responding to The Guardian, the government warned it might take some time before such technology could be adopted, saying:
“New communications technologies are continually being tested in labs many years in advance of being commercialized. They require widespread acceptance from equipment manufacturers and network operators before they are ready for operational deployment.”