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A new laser developed by a research group at Caltech holds the potential to increase by orders of magnitude the rate of data transmission in the optical-fiber network -- the backbone of the Internet.

The study was published the week of February 10-14 in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The work is the result of a five-year effort by researchers in the laboratory of Amnon Yariv, Martin and Eileen Summerfield Professor of Applied Physics and professor of electrical engineering; the project was led by postdoctoral scholar Christos Santis (PhD '13) and graduate student Scott Steger.

Light is capable of carrying vast amounts of information -- approximately 10,000 times more bandwidth than microwaves, the earlier carrier of long-distance communications. But to utilize this potential, the laser light needs to be as spectrally pure -- as close to a single frequency -- as possible. The purer the tone, the more information it can carry, and for decades researchers have been trying to develop a laser that comes as close as possible to emitting just one frequency.

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