Communications breakthrough

Chemists at the Universities of Washington and Southern California have developed new polymers that they claim achieve speed increases that will revolutionise telecommunications, and data processing technologies.

The materials are used to create polymeric electro-optic modulators, or `opto-chips’ which translate electrical signals into optical signals at rates up to 100GB per second.

Polymeric electro-optic materials can, it’s claimed, achieve processing speeds 10 times those of current devices and have greater bandwidths than electro-optic crystals currently in use. Also, the new materials require less than 17% of the electricity the crystals require.

During testing at Tacan Corporation in California the devices were used to translate electronic cable television signals into optical signals using less than 1V of electricity.

Polymeric electro-optic modulators can be used for data processing, steering radio/micro waves to and from satellites, detecting radar signals, switching signals in optical networks, and as optical gyroscopes to guide planes and missiles.

Tests indicate a single modulator measuring about .000039 inch can provide more than 300GHz of bandwidth – enough to handle a major corporation’s telephone, computer, television and satellite traffic.

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