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12 September 2011
 
In recent years, gains in optical transmission system capacity have been slow.  That’s because the capacity of current optical fibres is within a factor of two of their fundamental physical limits, bounded by the Shannon limit and optical nonlinearities. Now an €11.8m European-funded research project is investigating ways to boost system capacity by an order of magnitude using specialist multimode optical fibres.
 
The eight partners in MODE-GAP, as the project is called, will develop multimode, photonic band-gap, long-haul transmission fibres and the associated enabling technologies. These fibres offer the potential to increase transmission capacity through the use of multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) operation of the different spatial modes in the optical fibre, and could offer further order-of-magnitude capacity increases as a result of the ultra-low loss and ultra-low nonlinearity offered by photonic band-gap fibre.
 
“MODE-GAP is thought to be one of only three projects like this in the world, the others being in Japan and the US,” claims Dr Ian Giles, project leader and chief executive of Phoenix Photonics, a UK-based firm that specialises in polarisation and wavelength control.
 
He added: “The new fibres proposed within the project to facilitate spatial division multiplexing, demand a whole new range of components.” Giles has written an article for the ECOC Show Guide that looks in more detail at the advanced fibre components that will be required.
 
The project started in October 2010, and the partners are getting ready to publish some results later this month. The other organisations involved alongside Phoenix are the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre, ESPCI ParisTech, OFS Fitel Denmark, the COBRA Institute at Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Eblana Photonics, Nokia Siemens Networks and the Tyndall National Institute of University College Cork.
 
By Pauline Rigby