The internet could be speeded up by up to 100 times if scientists' groundbreaking new technology proves viable.
Harnessing twisted light beams to carry more data and process it faster, the innovation comes via Dr Haoran Ren from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology's School of Science.
The development is a world-first nanophotonic device which encodes more data and processes it much faster than conventional fiber optics by using a special form of 'twisted' light.
Ren said the tiny nanophotonic device him and his team built for reading twisted light is the missing key required to unlock super-fast, ultra-broadband communications.
This technology's high performance, low cost and tiny size makes it a viable application for the next generation of broadband optical communications
"Present-day optical communications are heading towards a 'capacity crunch' as they fail to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of big data," Ren said.
"What we've managed to do is accurately transmit data via light at its highest capacity in a way that will allow us to massively increase our bandwidth."
This latest technology carries data on light waves that have been twisted into a spiral to increase their capacity further still. This is known as light in a state of orbital angular momentum, or OAM.
"Our miniature OAM nano-electronic detector is designed to separate different OAM light states in a continuous order and to decode the information carried by twisted light," Ren explained,
"To do this previously would require a machine the size of a table, which is completely impractical for telecommunications. By using ultrathin topological nanosheets measuring a fraction of a millimeter, our invention does this job better and fits on the end of an optical fiber."
Our nano-electronic device will unlock the full potential of twisted light for future optical and quantum communications
The director and associate deputy vice-chancellor for research innovation and entrepreneurship at RMIT, Professor Min Gu, said the materials used in the device were compatible with silicon-based materials use in most technology, making it easy to scale up for industry applications.
"Our OAM nano-electronic detector is like an 'eye' that can 'see' information carried by twisted light and decode it to be understood by electronics. This technology's high performance, low cost and tiny size makes it a viable application for the next generation of broadband optical communications," he said.
"It fits the scale of existing fiber technology and could be applied to increase the bandwidth, or potentially the processing speed, of that fiber by over 100 times within the next couple of years."
Gu went on to say that the detector can also be used to receive quantum information sent via twisting light, meaning it could have applications in a whole range of cutting edge quantum communications and quantum computing research.
"Our nano-electronic device will unlock the full potential of twisted light for future optical and quantum communications," added Gu.
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