Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Slow Light to Speed up the Internet?

I hadn't planned another post on the importance of speed for the internet, but ran across a fascinating article from the BBC (click here to read the full article).  Researchers in Britain and the United States say that a huge increase in the speed of the internet could be produced by slowing parts of it down.  The major limiting factor on the internet's speed comes about not from transporting information, but in routing it to its various destinations. Metamaterials could replace the bulky and slow electronics that do the routing, paving the way for lightning fast web speeds. As noted by Dr. Chris Stevens from the department of engineering sciences at the University of Oxford,  the current system ". . . limits the speed of the whole process to the speed of your electronics.  The light and the fibres can quite cheerfully sustain a couple of terahertz, but your electronics can't do more than a few gigahertz."  Using metamaterials to build a completely optical internet may help to get around this problem.  

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