New, Long-Distance Fiber Links Travel Further Than Ever Before Thanks To New Research

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Two universities in Sweden and Estonia have extended the reach of fiber-optic transmissions to never-before-seen distances as of July 6.

The Tallinn University of Technology and Chalmer University of Technology were able to extend the reach of fiber-optic cables to 4,000 km, 5.6 times lengths previously reached by similar methods. They were able to achieve such a feat by reducing the noise and utilizing innovative phase-sensitive amplifiers (PSAs).

Fiber-optic transmissions have not been able to reach such distances before due to the signal distortion and noise that are inherent in the link’s amplifiers. By using these phase-sensitive amplifiers in conjunction with polarization alignment, the researchers were able to transmit 10Gps through a test link only 80 km long.

What does this mean for us? Not only would this drastically increase the capacity of video streaming, but it would also improve cloud storage. However, it has yet to be seen if this single-mode optical fiber can be translated into commercial use. Professor Andrekson of Chalmers University of Technology remains optimistic despite the challenges posed against commercial use.

“While there remain several engineering challenges before these results can be implemented commercially, the results show, for the first time, in a very clear way, the great benefits of using these amplifiers in optical communication,” he claimed.

This technology is not just applicable to streaming services, however. If this technology continues to improve, applications can extend into the medical field and the quantum informatics field.

It’s been estimated that if data centers in the United States were even 20% more efficient than they are right now, the U.S. would save over 20 billion kWh — nearly $2 billion in savings.

Polarizing the alignment between the waves in the link, however, is more difficult than it seems. Researchers claim this is nearly impossible to implement on a commercial level without inventing a new way of reducing noise distortion.

In the meantime, we’ll have to be content with using the streaming services and cloud technology we’re given. But thanks to the work of technological researchers in esteemed universities, we’re well on our way to a more connected future.

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