Two new patents awarded to Florida Tech computer engineering and sciences professor Syed Murshid may help further boost the data-carrying capacity of optical fibers, a key development that could turn quantum communication and computing into widespread reality and allow for faster development of new research for secure communications, more powerful machine learning procedures to diagnose illnesses, and materials to make more efficient devices and structures.
Murshid’s new engineering patents are for space division multiplexing (SDM) and orbital angular momentum of photon-based multiplexing (OAM), two key techniques that help enable high-capacity networks. In telecommunications and computer networks, multiplexing is a process that combines multiple signals into a single stream over a shared medium. With SDM, the physical separation between transmitting channels delivers different data streams of the same wavelength simultaneously – all via a single fiber the width of a human hair. Utilizing the multiple-input and multiple-output systems approach, the SDM technique improves data capacity and bandwidth of optical fibers by multiple folds.
Just as SDM improved the rate and amount of data that can be transmitted across a channel, OAM does the same with the orbital angular momentum of photons. With Murshid’s patent, the OAM may also be able to create quantum entanglement, a name given to a complex connection between pairs or groups of quantum systems or objects described by quantum mechanics. Through this, the photons can share information instantaneously and securely.
This has exciting potential for quantum computing, which is a process that manipulates information through quantum mechanical events. To do this, they rely on quantum bits, called qubits, that allow for information to be processed quicker.
The patent holds even more significance because of Florida Tech’s long involvement with optical fiber technology. Currently, there are five ways to multiplex information on fiber, and Florida Tech has invented two of them – SDM and OAM. The potential impact of this work is significant because demand for communications capacity is expected to continue to grow exponentially.
“It is projected that in the next two decades, optical communication will be propelled by SDM,” Murshid said. “I am also pretty confident that quantum communication in the near future will be based on OAM, an offshoot of SDM.”
For Murshid, being a part of research that will help produce faster and more secure communication through quantum computing is part of his job. The payoff for him is not on a quantum level, but a personal one.
“What is more important for me is that my students are excited about it,” he said. “They are all pioneers; I do my best to involve them in research and on the patents. Most of my graduate students graduate with 30 to 40 publications. Some of my students went on to jobs at places like Intel, Facebook and places that used to be Bell Labs, so being able to help them makes my day.”