Researchers developed compact low-noise optical amplifiers that are expected to revolutionize both space and fiber communication.
Optical communication systems make it possible to exchange data over very long distances. This technology is useful in a range of applications, such as space communication and in fiber optic cables for internet traffic. However, because the light loses power along the way between two distant points, a large number of optical amplifiers are required. But these amplifiers add excess noise that significantly impairs the quality of the signal you want to send or receive.
Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have developed a unique high-performance optical amplifier, which is compact enough to integrate into a chip just millimeters in size, and does not generate excessive noise.
“We have developed the world’s first optical amplifier that significantly enhances the range, sensitivity and performance of optical communication, that does not generate any excess noise—and is also compact enough to be of practical use,” says Ping Zhao, Postdoc at the Photonics Laboratory at Chalmers.
The light amplification is done based on the principle called Kerr effect. It presents the combined advantage of high-level performance and cost effectiveness. These amplifiers also work in a continuous wave (CW) operation rather than a pulsed operation only.
“What we demonstrate here represents the first CW operation with an extremely low noise in a compact integrated chip. This provides a realistic opportunity for practical use in a variety of applications. Since it’s possible to integrate the amplifier into very small modules, you can get cheaper solutions with much better performance, making this very interesting for commercial players in the long run,” says research leader Peter Andrekson.
“This amplifier shows unprecedented performance. We consider this to be an important step towards practical use, not only in communication, but in areas including quantum computers, various sensor systems and in metrology when making atmospheric measurements from satellites for Earth monitoring.”
The research has been published in the journal Science Advances.