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Engineers Smash Fiber Optic Data Transmission Record With 57 Gbps Transfer Using New Laser

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Google Fiber's high-speed Internet service, which will be launched next in San Francisco, utilizes fiber optic cables to provide customers with speeds of up to 1 Gbps.

A team of researchers from the University of Illinois have unlocked even more of the potential of fiber optic cables, as they were able to set a new speed record for data transmission.

The researchers, namely graduate students Michael Liu and Curtis Wang, professor emeritus Nick Holonyak Jr. and electrical and computer engineering professor Milton Feng, were able to transmit data at a whopping speed of 57 Gbps through fiber optic lines without any errors.

Comparatively, the previous record was 40 Gbps, and it was set by Feng with another group of students in 2014.

"Our big question has always been, how do you make information transmit faster?" Feng said, adding that the speed of data transmission needs to be improved to be able to handle the large data streams of new technologies such as virtual reality.

The technology that the team developed, named the oxide-VCSEL or Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser, is said to perform much better in high temperatures compared to older technology. This is significant because high temperatures, which slow down data transmission, are prevalent in data centers that require constant cooling systems.

The record 57 Gbps speed was achieved in room temperature. At a temperature of 185 degrees Fahrenheit, the technology is able to transmit data at a lower speed of 50 Gbps, which is still fast enough to be able to download a Blu-Ray DVD in only a few seconds.

Google Fiber may not be offering its customers Internet speeds of more than 50 Gbps anytime soon though, as the data transmission performed by the researchers were only made over a short distance. According to Feng, the oxide-VCSEL technology could find its way into data centers and also into airborne, lightweight communications, such as within airplanes. This is because the fiber optic wires are lighter compared to the copper wires currently being used.

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