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Scientists transfer 26 terabits of data in one second

David Ludlow
23 May 2011
Scientists transfer 26 terabits of data in one second
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Fastest data transfer rate ever

Apple and Intel probably thought they were being clever with the super-fast data transfer Thunderbolt technology inside the new Apple MacBook, but a team of scientists has managed to many steps further.

The team of the Karlsruhe Institure of Technology (KIT) in Germany has managed to transfer 26 terabits of data per second. In other words that's 700 single-layer (4.7GB) DVDs in just one second, far outstripping any other storage or networking technology in use at the moment.

Getting these incredible speeds involved encoding the data at a rate of 26 terabits per second on to a laser beam to transmit the data 50km. The key thing here is that only a single laser beam had to be used, showing that there's potential to massively grow internet bandwidth without expensive new infrastructure.

"Our result shows that physical limits are not yet exceeded even at extremely high data rates," said Professor Jürg Leuthold of KIT.

It's all thanks to orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM). In short, the initial data is encoded into around 325 different frequencies (different colours of light) and sent down the same cable; at the other end, they're split off into their own distinct frequencies again and decoded.

"The challenge was to increase the process speed not only by a factor of 1000, but by a factor of nearly a million for data processing at 26 terabits per second," said Leuthold. "The decisive innovative idea was optical implementation of the mathematical routine."

According to the report the optical implementation turned out to be incredibly fast and very power efficient, as energy is only required for the laser and a few of the process steps. With the mass use of video on the internet pushing ISP's to their limits, the new system shows that there's a way to produce the capacity required on fibre networks.

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