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Scientists Twist Radio Beams to Send Data

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A graphic showing the intensity of the radio beams after twisting.

Twisting radio beams together allows the transmission of data at high speeds, without some of the problems seen in optical systems.

Credit: Alan Willner/USC Viterbi

Scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) have twisted radio beams together to send data at high speeds without some of the problems experienced with optical systems. They reached data transmission rates of 32 Gbps across 2.5 meters of free space in a basement lab, which is fast enough to transmit more than 10 90-minute-long high-definition movies in one second and is 30 times faster than LTE wireless.

"Not only is this a way to transmit multiple spatially collocated radio data streams through a single aperture, it is also one of the fastest data transmission via radio waves that has been demonstrated," says USC professor Alan Willner.

The team passed each beam, carrying its own independent stream of data, through a spiral phase plate that twisted them into a unique orthogonal DNA-like helical shape. A receiver at the other end of the room then untwisted and recovered the different data streams.

Radio offers the advantage of wider, more robust beams, which are better able to cope with obstacles between the transmitter and receiver, and it is not as affected by atmospheric turbulence.

The researchers say the technology could be used in ultra-high-speed links for the wireless backhaul that connects base stations of next-generation cellular systems.

From USC News
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