A group of researchers from the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) and the University of Western Australia (UWA) have set a world record for the stability of laser signal transmission through the atmosphere, writes the journal Nature Communications.
Developed specifically for the project, phase stabilization technology together with advanced homing optical terminals allowed scientists to create the most stable transmission, allowing laser signals to be transmitted from one point to another without interference from the atmosphere.
The study’s lead author Benjamin Dix-Matthews, an ICRAR and UWA graduate student, said the method proposed by his project effectively eliminates atmospheric turbulence.
“We can correct atmospheric turbulence in 3D, which is left-right, up-down, and most importantly along the flight line,” he says. “This allows us to send highly stable laser signals through the atmosphere while maintaining the quality of the original signal.”
Senior Researcher at ICRAR-UWA Dr. Sasha Shedivi noted that the study has interesting practical applications.
“If you have one of these optical terminals on earth and the other on a satellite in space, you can start learning fundamental physics,” he said. “From a more accurate test of Einstein’s general theory of relativity than ever before, to finding out if fundamental physical constants change over time.”
Accurate measurements of this technology also find practical applications in geosciences and geophysics.
“For example, this technology could improve satellite studies of how groundwater levels change over time, or make it easier to find ore deposits underground,” said Dr. Shedivi.
Optical communications can safely transfer data between satellites and the Earth at a much higher data rate than current radio communications.
“Our technology can help us increase the speed of data transfer from satellites to the earth by several orders of magnitude,” said Dr. Shedivi.
Phase stabilization technology was originally developed to synchronize incoming signals for a square kilometer grating telescope. These multi-billion dollar telescopes are slated to be built in Western Australia and South Africa from 2021.