Overcoming Kerr-induced capacity limit in optical fiber transmission

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Science  26 Jun 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6242, pp. 1445-1448
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab1781

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Getting around the capacity crunch

The growing appetite for an ever-faster Internet and enhanced long-haul communication requires the pumping of more light down optic fibers. However, light-induced nonlinearities limit how much light can be pumped into the fiber without compromising the signal. This limitation has led to the prospect of a “capacity crunch.” Temprana et al. eliminated the effects of nonlinearity by using digital back-propagation methods with mutually coherent laser pulses from a single frequency comb.

Science, this issue p. 1445


Nonlinear optical response of silica imposes a fundamental limit on the information transfer capacity in optical fibers. Communication beyond this limit requires higher signal power and suppression of nonlinear distortions to prevent irreversible information loss. The nonlinear interaction in silica is a deterministic phenomenon that can, in principle, be completely reversed. However, attempts to remove the effects of nonlinear propagation have led to only modest improvements, and the precise physical mechanism preventing nonlinear cancellation remains unknown. We demonstrate that optical carrier stability plays a critical role in canceling Kerr-induced distortions and that nonlinear wave interaction in silica can be substantially reverted if optical carriers possess a sufficient degree of mutual coherence. These measurements indicate that fiber information capacity can be notably increased over previous estimates.

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