Building Networking Tools Into Fiber Optics
Thanks to Einstein, we know that information can only travel as fast as the speed of light, so it makes sense that the fastest way to get data from one point to another is to use light. That is why the backbone of the Internet is fiber optic, but even with the fastest transmission speed possible, fiber optic communication is slower than it can be. As reported in the Optical Society of America's Optics Express journal, researchers have created a new dual-core optical fiber that should speed up optical communications by simplifying the components involved.
There is more to fiber optic communication than just sending an optical signal from point A to point B, just as there is more than that to any kind of network. Information has to be routed and buffered at times and for optical communication, this requires removing the signal from the cable. The dual-core fiber optic design though allows the same processes to be performed within the cable, thanks to light's ability to couple with other signals. Within the cable are two optical cores that actually carry the light signals, and even if they do not touch, the light in one can affect light in the other just by applying enough pressure to move the cores. These effects can include slowing the light down, creating an in-line buffer, and enabling a signal to jump from one core to another, like a router or switch.
The potential of this dual-core cable may not be limited to telecommunications though, as its pressure-sensitivity could make it viable sensor. No matter how it is used though, the fact that it can be manufactured with the same techniques already used by industry is going to help it catch on.