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May 18, 2020

Engineers develop first tunable, chip-based ‘vortex microlaser’ and detector

Posted by in categories: computing, internet

As computers get more powerful and connected, the amount of data that we send and receive is in a constant race with the technologies that we use to transmit it. Electrons are now proving insufficiently fast and are being replaced by photons as the demand for fiber optic internet cabling and data centers grow.

Though light is much faster than electricity, in modern optical systems, more information is transmitted by layering data into multiple aspects of a light wave, such as its amplitude, wavelength and polarization. Increasingly sophisticated “multiplexing” techniques like these are the only way to stay ahead of the increasing demand for data, but those too are approaching a bottleneck. We are simply running out of room to store more data in the conventional properties of light.

To break through this barrier, engineers are exploring some of light’s harder-to-control properties. Now, two studies from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science have shown a system that can manipulate and detect one such property known as the , or OAM, of light. Critically, they are the first to do so on small semiconductor chips and with enough precision that it can be used as a medium for transmitting information.

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