Internet speed

The basic mechanism behind noise-canceling headphones could boost both the speed and reliability of Internet connections, according to researchers that published findings via Nature Photonics.

Noise-canceling headphones use a microphone to pick up any outside noises within range of your ears. It then sends an inverse set of sounds picked up by the background noise to cancel it out. Researchers think they can essentially do the same thing with fiber optic cable Internet, which uses light waves to transmit data. However, this requires a lot of power to make the process fast, and this results in lots of “noise” that would otherwise slow down Internet speeds and reliability.

Researchers noted that sending twin light beams down a fiber optic cable along with the original transmission of data could basically eliminate that noise, as the light beams would pick up the noise and cancel it out. BBC News notes that the research team led by Xiang Liu of Bell Laboratories used this technique, called phase conjugation,  to send a signal of 400 gigabits per second through 12,800 km of fiber optic cable. For perspective, Google Fiber offers its subscribers 1 gigabit per second, and the length Liu’s team sent that signal is longer than the transoceanic fiber links.

“At the receiver, if you superimpose the two waves, then all the distortions will magically cancel each other out, so you obtain the original signal back,” Liu told the BBC. “This concept, looking back, is quite easy to understand, but surprisingly, nobody did this before.”

High-speed Internet photo via Shutterstock

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