RMIT researchers have developed a nanostructured thin film that selectively filters light, significantly increasing the bandwidth of optical communication systems.
Researchers from the School of Engineering plan to commercialise optical communication technology that will contribute to the development of next-generation networks that use existing optical fibres to smoothly deliver high-resolution videos and other data-heavy content to a larger number of users.
Due to the expansion of the internet and smartphones, communication traffic is dramatically increasing.
Today, optical component and circuit designers find themselves simultaneously needing to meet requirements for delivering increased performance and functionality, while continually reducing costs and size.
Communication companies need to deliver on high capacity as well as low cost, however, they face significant technology barriers to achieving the cost and integration levels that are required for next-generation optical systems for consumer electronics (e.g. optical data storage, digital imaging and display), industrial optics (e.g. sensors and control systems), and optical communications applications (e.g. transceivers and optical routing).
Dr Jiao Lin, Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow in the School of Engineering, embarked on a research project to overcome these barriers.
Lin collaborated with researchers from the University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, Shenzhen University (China) and Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) to develop a nanostructured thin film that selectively filters light based on the polarisation of electromagnetic radiation.
He said the team used a methodology to transmit the light down a very thin fibre of glass to the detector.
"The detector then converts the pulses of light into equivalent electrical pulses," Lin said.
"In this way the data can be transmitted as light over great distances.
"Applying this nanostructured thin film onto photodiodes in optical communication systems will significantly increase the bandwidth of optical communication systems by as much as 100 per cent.
"There are currently no commercially available solutions that specifically enable the filtering of light, based on its elliptically polarized state, that are easy to manufacture through lithography and are scalable for commercial purposes.
"The nanostructured thin film also allows for easy integration with current optical communication systems."
The technology is the subject of a patent application, and further research and development is being undertaken to further refine the technology and to explore new applications.
The findings have been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
Story: Petra van Nieuwenhoven