A research team at Keio University, Japan has developed a cheaper and safer alternative to glass fibres. The new plastic optical fibres have the potential to be applied in the automated transport industry, and are anticipated to be opened to commercial usage in 2022 earliest.

Keio University, one of Japan’s leading education institutions, has announced a research team’s great feat of developing plastic optical fibres. This new creation can send information with minimal errors, and carries the potential to be applied in data centres for developing automated cars.

Currently, fibre-optic cables used for high-speed data transmission are mostly made from glass. However, this method is highly costly, fragile, and requires more skill to handle. Thus, for some time, there have been anticipation to use plastic as an alternative. Plastic cables however, generate more error-causing noises that can delay transmission and consume more energy.

The innovative plastic optical fibres were developed by professor Yasuhiro Koike and his team. The functions of the new plastic fibres are to control the path of the light traveling within, and to scatter it forward to avoid any noise caused from light reflecting in different directions. After its development and multiple tests by the research team, it recorded the ability to transmit signals at 53 gigabits per second, with no additional error correction needed.

At this rate, if this technology is available for commercial use, it could reduce data lags in self-driving vehicles and reduce electricity usage by data centres. This has been an issue, as more data centres are built globally to follow the increasing data usage.

Keio University’s research team also expects potential applications in other areas that require rapid, accurate data transmission. For example, controlling medical robots and displaying high-resolution 8K images. With all these plans in the works, the team’s aim is to develop the fibres to be ready for commercial use as early as 2022.


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