AMES, Iowa - Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory have come up with a potentially perfect way to sort and distribute the massive amounts of data that travel daily over optical fibers to people throughout the world. The new technology, a three-dimensional photonic crystal add-drop filter, promises greatly enhanced transmission of multiple wavelength channels (wavelengths of light) traveling along the same optical fiber. The innovative filter is a significant achievement in the effort to develop all-optical transport networks that would eliminate electrical components from optical transmission links and guarantee virtually flawless data reception to end users of the Internet and other fiber-based telecommunications systems.
"There are up to 160 wavelength channels traveling through an optical fiber at the same time," said Rana Biswas, an Ames Laboratory physicist and one of the developers of the new add-drop filter. "That means a lot of dialogue is going on simultaneously." Biswas, who is also an Iowa State University adjunct associate professor of physics and astronomy and electrical and computer engineering, explained that as information is transported over these multiple channels, it's necessary to drop off individual wavelength channels at different points on the fiber. At the same time, it's essential to be able to add data streams into unfilled wavelength channels.
"When the data being transported in multiple frequency channels over an optical fiber comes to a receiving station, you want to be able to pick off just one of those frequencies and send it to an individual end user," said Biswas. "That's where these 3-D photonic crystals come into play."
Biswas and his colleagues, Kai-Ming Ho, an Ames Laboratory senior physicist
and an ISU Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Gary Tuttle,
an ISU associate professor of electrical and computer engine
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