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  • Device Improves Global Data Transmission
Sep 2010
SOUTHAMPTON, England, Sept. 9, 2010 — Researchers have developed a new data transmission system that could substantially improve the transmission capacity and energy efficiency of the world's optical communication networks.

Working on the European Union-funded Framework Program 7 Phasors project, led by the University of Southampton's Optoelectronics Research Center (ORC)in the UK, the scientists have announced a major advance in the potential elimination of transmission interference.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Photonics, scientists on the Phasors project report the development of the first practical phase sensitive amplifier and phase regenerator for high-speed binary phase encoded signals. This device, unlike others developed in the past, eliminates phase noise directly without the need for conversion to an electronic signal, which would inevitably slow the speeds achievable.

The device takes an incoming noisy data signal and restores its quality by reducing the build up of phase noise and also any amplitude noise at the same time.

"This result is an important first step towards the practical implementation of all-optical signal processing of phase encoded signals, which are now being exploited commercially due to their improved data carrying capacity relative to conventional amplitude coding schemes,” said David Richardson, professor, ORC deputy director and Phasors director.

“Our regenerator can clean noise from incoming data signals and should allow for systems of extended physical length and capacity,” he said. “In order to achieve this result, a major goal of the Phasors project has required significant advances in both optical fiber and semiconductor laser technology across the consortium.

“We believe this device and associated component technology will have significant applications across a range of disciplines beyond telecommunications – including optical sensing, metrology, as well as many other basic test and measurement applications in science and engineering," Richardson said.

Transmission of data through optical networks is currently limited by phase noise from optical amplifiers and cross talk induced by interaction of the signal with the many other signals (each at a different wavelength) simultaneously circulating through the network.

Phase noise is the rapid, short-term, random fluctuations in the phase of a signal, which affects the quality of the information sent and results in data transmission errors. Cross talk refers to any signal unintentionally affecting another signal.

Traditionally, optical data has been sent as a sequence of bits that were coded in the amplitude of the light beam, a system that was simple and practical but inefficient in its use of bandwidth. Until recent years, this wasn't a problem given the enormous data-carrying capacity of an optical fiber.
However, the introduction of bandwidth-hungry video applications, such as YouTube, and the continued growth of the Internet itself have led to increasing interest in finding more efficient data signalling formats — in particular, schemes that code data in the phase rather than amplitude of an optical beam.

The Phasors project, which started in 2008, was tasked with developing new technology and components to substantially improve the transmission capacity and energy efficiency of today's optical communication networks.

The project combines the expertise of research teams from the ORC, Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, The Tyndall National Institute at University College Cork in Ireland, the National and Kapodestrian University of Athens in Greece, and industrial partners Onefive GmbH in Switzerland, Eblana Photonics in Ireland and OFS in Denmark.

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A device that enlarges and strengthens a signal's output without significantly distorting its original waveshape. There are amplifiers for acoustical, optical and electronic signals.
1. The additive process whereby the amplitudes of two or more overlapping waves are systematically attenuated and reinforced. 2. The process whereby a given wave is split into two or more waves by, for example, reflection and refraction of beamsplitters, and then possibly brought back together to form a single wave.
The science of measurement, particularly of lengths and angles.
optical fiber
A thin filament of drawn or extruded glass or plastic having a central core and a cladding of lower index material to promote total internal reflection (TIR). It may be used singly to transmit pulsed optical signals (communications fiber) or in bundles to transmit light or images.  
Referring to the bandwidth and spectrum location of the signal produced by television or radar scanning.
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