New Arrival: Unlimited Bandwidth

A gentle but firm shove towards a new age of networks

Don’t we all love things unlimited? Advertisers thrive by this maxim. Progress aims for it. And Technology tries to find it.

Take the example of Network Bandwidth. The spectrum allotted to us by our Wi-Fi Router offers us a limited amount of space to work with, and we have all been making do, somehow. Only — that isn’t enough any more. Data and Content are accumulating faster than we can ever imagine, less handle.

The devices that we use, such as phones or computers rely on electromagnetic waves to transmit and receive information. But Data and Content can only travel on a certain bandwidth, and it gets crowded.

Maximising the data-bandwidth ratio has been the intention of all network equipment manufacturers for time immemorial. Continuous evolution is mandatory, if efficiencies and utility are to be increased.

But, the problem has almost always been interference. And that band of baddies is becoming bigger every passing month — as more and more devices join our little networked world.

Think of bandwidth as a road. Traffic in a select direction might be orderly (like that on one-way streets), but it is not always feasible. You need incoming as well as outgoing traffic to move in tandem, in order to do anything electronically. But as bi-directional movement happens on the path, traffic jams ensue.

In bandwidth, using the same frequency (i.e. roads) for both incoming and outgoing interactions causes interference, in which both signal gets distorted.

Enter UCLA.

Engineers at UCLA have designed a solution for this problem. Their research has supported the use of a circulator which could send and receive information simultaneously. The movement of information is done from different ports but they share the same antenna.
 Imagine, instead of making two one-way roads for traffic, one can use a single road using tech that UCLA’s developed. The space for movement will be doubled, so can the data usage.

UCLA has published its research in the prestigious journal Nature. The research team headed by one Ethan Wang (Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science) have engineered this device. And what they have developed is quite revolutionary.

Unlike traditional circulators, these circulators are made to handle the data signal simultaneously. The traditional circulators have been made with magnetic materials, therefore it was quite troublesome to integrate them into a modern circuit. They can do the job, but they can’t be used universally. Other circulators are limited by their size to handle frequencies.

Wang has engineered a “Distributedly Modulated Capacitor” with his team, which is made up of non-magnetic materials such as silicon or a compound semiconductors. This helps it in acting as a traffic modulator as well as a director of traffic. It shifts the incoming information on a different frequency for processing but doesn’t change the outgoing one.

This simultaneous configuring of signals will be done by a special time-switching strategy called Sequentially-Switched Delay Line (SSDL). This is what helps in building an unlimited bandwidth solution.

According to the journal, “The essential SSDL configuration consists of six transmission lines of equal length, along with five switches. Each switch is turned on and off sequentially to distribute and route the propagating electromagnetic wave, allowing for simultaneous transmission and receiving of signals through the device. Preliminary experimental results with commercial off the shelf parts are presented which demonstrated non-reciprocal behavior with greater than 40 dB isolation from 200 KHz to 200 MHz. The theory and experimental results demonstrated that the SSDL concept may lead to future on-chip circulators over multi-octaves of frequency”.

Using the metaphor of trains, Wang explained how one can switch data on- and off-track to maximise efficiency. The idea has appealed to DARPA, who has promptly granted USD 2.2 million to test and refine the development.

One can surely understand the potential of this, given that we are almost on a cusp of information explosion. The unlimited bandwidth can be the gentle but firm shove into a newer dawn.

Originally published at Chip-Monks.