New optical antennas might overcome information limits

Scheme of multiplex antennas that emit coherent light. The technology could overcome current data capacity limits. (Courtesy of the Kanté Group, UC Berkeley)

Adapted from UC Berkeley’s press release by Sarah Yang

Researchers at the Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley have found a new way to harness the properties of light waves that can radically increase the amount of data they carry. They demonstrated the emission of discrete twisted laser beams from antennas made up of concentric rings roughly the diameter of a human hair and small enough to be placed on computer chips.

The new work, published in an article published February 25 in the journal Nature Physics, opens up the amount of information that can be multiplexed or transmitted simultaneously from a coherent light source. A common example of multiplexing is the transmission of multiple phone calls over a single line. However, the number of coherent twisted light waves that could be directly multiplexed was fundamentally limited.

“This is the first time lasers that produce twisted light have been directly multiplexed,” said senior author Boubacar Kanté, a faculty scientist in the Materials Science Department at Berkeley Lab and Associate Professor Chenming Hu at UC Berkeley’s Department of Electrical and Computer Science. “We have seen an explosion of data in our world, and the communication channels we have now will soon no longer be sufficient to achieve what we need. The technology we report on overcomes current data capacity limits through a property of light known as angular momentum. It is a pioneer for applications in biological imaging, quantum cryptography, high capacity communications, and sensors. “

Read the full UC Berkeley version here.

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