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Towards high-capacity fibre-optic communications at the speed of light in vacuum


Wide-bandwidth signal transmission with low latency is emerging as a key requirement in a number of applications, including the development of future exaflop-scale supercomputers, financial algorithmic trading and cloud computing1,2,3. Optical fibres provide unsurpassed transmission bandwidth, but light propagates 31% slower in a silica glass fibre than in vacuum, thus compromising latency. Air guidance in hollow-core fibres can reduce fibre latency very significantly. However, state-of-the-art technology cannot achieve the combined values of loss, bandwidth and mode-coupling characteristics required for high-capacity data transmission. Here, we report a fundamentally improved hollow-core photonic-bandgap fibre that provides a record combination of low loss (3.5 dB km−1) and wide bandwidth (160 nm), and use it to transmit 37 × 40 Gbit s−1 channels at a 1.54 µs km−1 faster speed than in a conventional fibre. This represents the first experimental demonstration of fibre-based wavelength division multiplexed data transmission at close to (99.7%) the speed of light in vacuum.

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Figure 1: Fabrication and characterization of wide-bandwidth HC-PBGF.
Figure 2: Low-crosstalk multimode propagation through a HC-PBGF.
Figure 3: Confirmation of single-mode, low-latency transmission.
Figure 4: 1.48 Tbit s−1 wavelength division multiplexing transmission experiment.

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This work was supported by the EU 7th Framework Programme (grant agreement 228033; MODE-GAP) and by the UK EPSRC (grants EP/I01196X/1 (Hyperhighway) and EP/H02607X/1). F.P. and R.S. acknowledge support from a Royal Society University Research Fellowship and an EU FP7 Marie-Curie Fellowship (255368, TOP CLASS), respectively. Z.L. acknowledges support from the China Scholarship Council.

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F.P. and E.N.F. designed the fibre and modelled its loss contributions. N.V.W., M.N.P., N.B. and J.R.H. fabricated and characterized the fibre. R.S. conducted the ToF and data transmission experiments. D.R.G., Z.L. and F.P. conducted the S2 modal characterization. F.P., M.N.P. and D.J.R. contributed to the genesis of the idea and provided overall technical leadership across all aspects of the research. F.P., R.S. and D.J.R. wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to F. Poletti.

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Poletti, F., Wheeler, N., Petrovich, M. et al. Towards high-capacity fibre-optic communications at the speed of light in vacuum. Nature Photon 7, 279–284 (2013).

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