Your attenuation, please!

Visible light waves
Imagine light that never fades

Oh man, that has to be one of the best inside physics jokes, ever.

Advertising agencies love video on the Internet.  It lets us deliver our intended message, it lets us drive emotional response and it gives us a point of difference versus others in social media efforts.  The problem with video on the Web is that it sucks bandwidth and, even on broadband connections, can result in choppy play.  Nothing is worse than having an intended message bombed out because it keeps hiccuping.  However, a team of optical engineers have devised a way to revitalize light signals being sent down optical fibers, enabling them to send more information down the wires.  The result could be a perfect stream of video.

Conventionally, data is sent as a series of on-off light pulses, where each pulse encodes as a series of on-off light pulses, where each pulse encodes a single bit of information.  More data can potentially be squeezed onto a stream of light by modifying the phase of each light pulse in a measurable way.  Even greater carrying capacity can be achieved using light at several intensity levels.  However, light signals are gradually distorted by interacting with the fiber – a process known as attenuation (hence the headline).

The more complex the signal, the harder it becomes to resolve after attenuation.  What is needed is a way to reverse the degradation process and recreate the original signal.  David Richardson at the University of Southampton (UK) and his team have developed one.  Their device makes a copy of the attenuated incoming signal and “mixes” it with a laser beam in a length of specially designed optical fiber.  This generates two additional strong signals that are perfectly in phase with the data signal, one with a higher frequency and one with a frequency just lower.   These signals can then act as a scaffold that, after interaction with a second copy of the data signal in a second fiber, removes the noise and generates a pristine version.

Imagine the ability to deliver video to a broadband connected device without ever having to worry about signal loss.  It’s this type of technology that one can expect to see “fast-tracked” as this can have a profound impact on Apple TV, Google TV, etc.

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