A new optical amplifier could revolutionize optical communication

It is compact enough to integrate into a chip just millimeters in size.

Thanks to optical communication, it becomes possible to transfer information over very long distances using light or radio waves. The technology has applications such as space communication and fiber optic cables for internet traffic.

But, it has a limitation- as it uses light to transfer information between two distant points, it loses power along the way. Hence, it needs a large number of optical amplifiers are required. The problem with the amplifiers is they add excess noise that significantly impairs the quality of the signal.

Scientists at the Chalmers University of Technology have come up with a solution. They have presented a unique optical amplifier that could potentially revolutionize optical communication.

Along with offering high performance, this new amplifier is compact enough to integrate into a chip just millimeters in size. Most importantly, it does not generate excess noise.

Ping Zhao, Postdoc at the Photonics Laboratory at Chalmers, said, “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.”

“The light amplification in the project is based on a principle known as the Kerr effect, which so far is the only known approach that amplifies light without causing significant excess noise. The principle has been demonstrated before, but never in such a compact format– previous versions were too bulky to be useful.”

Research leader Peter Andrekson said, “What we demonstrate here represents the first CW operation with 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 tiny modules, you can get cheaper solutions with much better performance, making this very interesting for commercial players in the long run.”

“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 new results also open doors to completely new applications in both technology and science.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Zhichao Ye, Ping Zhao et al. Overcoming the quantum limit of optical amplification in monolithic waveguides. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abi8150

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