Data Limits Could Vanish With New Optical Antennas and “Rings of Light”

EECS Prof. Boubacar Kanté and his team have found a new way to harness properties of light waves that can radically increase the amount of data they carry. They demonstrated the emission of discrete twisting laser beams from antennas made up of concentric rings roughly equal to the diameter of a human hair, small enough to be placed on computer chips.  The new work, reported in a paper published Thursday, February 25, 2021, in the journal Nature Physics, throws wide open the amount of information that can be multiplexed, or simultaneously transmitted, by a coherent light source.  “It’s the first time that lasers producing twisted light have been directly multiplexed,” said Kanté. “We’ve been experiencing an explosion of data in our world, and the communication channels we have now will soon be insufficient for what we need. The technology we are reporting overcomes current data capacity limits through a characteristic of light called the orbital angular momentum. It is a game-changer with applications in biological imaging, quantum cryptography, high-capacity communications, and sensors.”