Light has become one of our most powerful servants, carrying information ranging from a chat room "LOL" to an entire digitized movie through hundreds of miles of fiber optics in seconds. But like many servants, light is sometimes uncooperative. Among other things, it doesn't like to go around tight corners. Cornell and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have a solution that could offer increased bandwidth for fiber-optic communication, both in long-haul transmission and in the dense traffic in large data centers.
"We are tricking the light into thinking it's going in a straight line," explained Michal Lipson, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.
The trick is an irregularly shaped waveguide designed in a collaboration between Lipson's research group and MIT mathematician Steven Johnson's. They reported their work in the Nov. 20 issue of the journal Nature Communications. Lucas Gabrielli, a recently graduated Ph.D. student in Lipson's group, is first author.