For years, organic electro-optic polymers have held the promise of vastly improving technologies such as communications, data processing and image displays. Now it appears scientists are on the verge of breakthroughs that will bring dramatic progress in materials, as well as the devices in which they are used, setting the stage for a virtual revolution.
Simply put, electro-optic polymers are being used to make devices that take information that typically has been transmitted electronically and transfer it to optical systems that use light. The latest developments will affect not just how much information can be sent at one time but also the power required to transmit the information.
The newest materials have made possible something called wavelength division multiplexing, a process that can separate a beam of light into perhaps 100 different colors and impose as much as 50 gigabits of information on each color. At that rate, a beam of light could transmit 5 terabits — or about 625 gigabytes — of data per second, and could move data equivalent to what is in the Library of Congress in about 30 seconds.
Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
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