A multi-national team with researchers hailing from the U.S., China, Pakistan and Israel has developed a system of transmitting data using twisted beams of light at ultra-high speeds up to 2.56 terabits per second. To put that in perspective, this is more than 85,000 times faster than broadband cable that supports “only” up to about 30 megabits per second.
The researchers used beam-twisting "phase holograms" to manipulate eight beams of light so that each one twisted in a DNA-like helical shape as it propagated in free space. Each of the beams had its own individual twist and can be encoded with "1" and "0" data bits, making each an independent data stream.
The demonstration system transmitted data over open space in a lab, attempting to simulate the sort of communications that might occur between satellites in space. Among the next steps for the research field will be to advance how it could be adapted for use in fiber optics.