RMIT scientists develop revolutionary thin film technology that speeds up data transfer

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RMIT researchers have successfully created a nanostructured thin film that selectively filters light, significantly increasing the bandwidth of optical communication systems.

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According to the press release by RMIT, researchers from the School of Engineering plan to commercialise optical communication technology that will accelerate the development of next-gen networks that use existing optical fibres to seamlessly deliver high-resolution videos and other data-heavy content to a larger number of users.

The expansion of the internet and smartphones saw dramatic increase in communication traffic, presenting optical component and circuit designers with the need to meet requirements for delivering increased performance and functionality, while continually reducing costs and size.

Communication companies face significant technology limitations to achieve the cost and integration levels that are required for next-gen 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, said the research project aimed to overcome these barriers by developing a nanostructured thin film that selectively filters light based on the polarisation of electromagnetic radiation.

He explained that 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. 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,” Dr Lin said.

“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.”

According to Mr Lin, the technology is the subject of a patent application and further development to explore new applications.