A research team led by Xiang Liu of Bell Laboratories has come up with a novel idea that could help increase Internet connection speeds to 400 Gigabits per second. The researchers have leveraged the same basic mechanism employed in noise-cancelling headphones to reduce noise and increase Internet connectivity speeds and range: phase conjugation.
Noise cancelling headphones work with the help of a microphone that picks up ambient noise and transmits an inverse set of signals corresponding to the noise to cancel it out. Liu’s team used the same technique to do away with noise in electronic transmissions and thus increase the speed and reach of the signals.
Who knew noise cancellation could reduce noise and increase overall data transfer speed
Since electronic data is transmitted through fibre optic cables in the form of light, the signals often encounter noise from the fibre optic cable’s material itself, resulting in their range being cut down. To increase the signal’s range, you have to push out more power, but that introduces errors and you have to send additional information to correct these errors.
As light travels in waves just like sound, Liu’s team adopted phase conjugation in order to cancel out the noise. They sent out twin signals carrying the same data, but having opposite frequencies in the same fibre optic cable. If one beam of light encountered noise, the other beam would cancel it out as it had the exact opposite frequency, just like in noise cancellation headphones.
Once the noise is done away with, you can turn up the power and increase the range; you also don’t have to worry about problems caused by interference and can therefore push out more data to achieve higher transfer speeds.
According to a report by BBC News, the researchers used this technique to send a signal through 12,800 km of fibre optic cable at 400Gbps. That’s almost four hundred times faster than any network connection most of us have ever experienced through standard Gigabit Ethernet ports.
If you're interested in more about this, check out the team's findings at Nature Photonics.