Three separate research projects could make life easier for both fixed-line and mobile Internet users. Qualcomm, Samsung and LG have unveiled work, covering fiber optic cables and rechargeable batteries.
The Qualcomm Institute, based at the University of California, San Diego, says it has found a way to dramatically increase the capabilities of fiber optic cables.
It aimed to tackle a problem with the use of signal repeaters, which extend the distance over which a fiber optic signal can run. The repeater turns the optical signal into an electronic one, then uses the information in the signal to create a new optical signal and pass it on. The big difficulty so far is that the process adds power to the signal which, beyond a certain threshold, distorts the signal too much to be useful.
A team led by Nikloa Alic (pictured, above right) tried to solve this by removing the need for the repeater. Normally that would fail past a certain distance because the signal would in this case be corrupted by crosstalk: interference between the hundreds of signals at different light frequencies in the cable.
The researchers say they’ve found a way to predict the effects of the crosstalk before it happens and then use this data to reverse the corruption at the receiving end with a “frequency comb.” In a paper published in Science they report successfully sending, receiving and deciphering data over 7,465 miles of optical cable without using repeaters.
Meanwhile phone companies are turning their attention to mobile device batteries. Samsung has used the now-common approach that if all else fails, try graphene. It says that it built a lithium-ion battery using a silicon anode with layers of graphene grown on top, improving both density and longevity. Samsung says this created batteries with 1.5 to 1.8 times the density of current models which, as Endgadget notes, could be particularly useful with juice-hungry top-end phones that currently can’t make it through the day without a recharge.
LG’s offering is a little simpler though more mysterious. It’s come up with a hexagonal battery, which it says adds four hours’ battery life over a comparable rectangular model. Exactly why this would be the case isn’t clear and it sounds suspiciously like the move is being driven as much by a desire to target the smart-watch market as anything else.