A world-first optical fiber as fine as a human hair has been developed, which can transmit 1.2 petabit of data per second (Pbps).

The dramatic improvement in speed was enabled by a coupler developed by scientists from the Macquarie University Photonics Research Centre, a fiber jointly developed by Hokkaido University and Fujikura Ltd and the transmission system developed by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology Japan (NICT).

Internet data use is increasing exponentially, due to developments such as on-demand streaming and artificial intelligence, and fast approaching the limits of existing communications networks.

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Research into new types of optical fiber that can transmit ultra-large volumes of data have to date resulted in thick fibers that are vulnerable to damage from bending and pulling.

The 4-core 3-mode fiber developed by Hokkaido University and Fujikura Ltd is almost the same width as existing standard optical fibers but can transmit 12 times as much data per second. Its narrower diameter means it is less prone to damage and can easily be cabled and connected using existing equipment, resulting in significant cost-savings over other types of fibers.

The fiber has applications in transmitting data between data centers, metropolitan networks, or undersea communications cables, with the ability to smoothly accommodate traffic for big data and 5G services.

“The world’s insatiable demand for data means that we are approaching a ‘capacity crunch’ and need to find new ways to transport ever-larger volumes,” said Dr. Simon Gross from the Macquarie Photonics Research Centre. “This technology promises a solution to the bottleneck created by existing optical fibers. For the first time, we have created a realistic and useable-sized fiber which is resilient and can transport huge amounts of data. It also represents a big cost saving over installing the 12 standard optical fibers you would need to transport the same volume of data.”