Novel device could increase broadband download speeds

The FCC wants gigabit internet in every US state by 2015

A team of scientists at the University of Minnesota has invented a device they claim could greatly increase the speed of downloading information online and reduce the cost of internet transmission.

The optical device uses force that is generated by light to flick a mechanical switch of light on and off at a very high speed. According to the team this method could lead to advances in signal processing, as networks could use light instead of electrical current. It would mean that signal processing can be facilitated with higher performance and lower power consumption.

“This device is similar to electromechanical relays but operates completely with light,” said Mo Li, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering.

“This is the first time that this novel optomechanical effect is used to amplify optical signals without converting them into electrical ones.”

Currently, the new optical relay device operates one million times per second. The scientists expect that, with further development, this to improve to several billion times per second. They claim that mechanical motion of the current device is already sufficiently fast to connect radio-frequency devices directly with fibre optics for broadband communication.

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