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Light mimics hotel with limitless vacancies

Hilbert illustration of infinity inspires new twist in optical information storage

2:00pm, October 26, 2015
hotel vacancy sign

PLENTY OF ROOM  An imaginary hotel conceived by mathematician David Hilbert always has vacancies, even though its infinite number of rooms are all occupied. That idea of opening up more space could be used to let light carry more data.

A mind-bogglingly large hotel has provided inspiration for expanding the data-carrying capacity of light.

A new technique that manipulates the twistiness of light is the optical equivalent of a mathematician’s thought experiment for creating more space in a hotel with an infinite number of rooms. In research published in the Oct. 16 Physical Review Letters, physicists tripled the degree of twistiness of a light beam.

Because physicists can encode data into those twisted bits of light (SN: 7/27/13, p. 11), the scheme creates vacancies for adding more twist-encoded data to a single beam. “It’s a trick to give yourself more bandwidth,” says study coauthor Robert Boyd, an optical physicist at the University of Rochester in New York. Light already carries data over fiber-optic cables across

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