Aston studies signal disturbance

Engineers at Aston University will launch a major research project to more accurately detect signal disturbance in fibre optic communication networks, and hope to use the data to create more effective telecoms systems.

Aston’s School of Engineering and Applied Science has been awarded more than £550,000 by the government to carry out the 5-year project in partnership with France Telecom R&D and Bell Labs.

The disturbances in all fibre-optical systems, known as noise, forces designers to employ special techniques to minimise errors in the digital bit stream, and accurately estimating noise is an important element of their work.

According to the Aston team, it may even be possible to use intrinsic noise to the advantage of designers because in certain nonlinear systems it can actually enhance the detection of weak signals, a phenomenon known as stochastic resonance.

The new project will apply a novel simulation technique for studying the statistics of the signal output in optical fibres. The Aston team said its proposed algorithm will allow it to model the statistics of extremely rare events in a way that is currently impossible, allowing it to calculate probabilities in the region of one error event per one billion transmitted bits.

Its final challenge will be to develop nonlinear electronic devices that make use of stochastic resonance.