Nanotechnology and Telecommunications: The Perfect Catalysis

When we talk about nanotechnology, the idea that normally pops up in our minds is of tiny robots that solve our problems more quickly and efficiently than we do. In fact, when we think of nanotechnology, in relation to other concepts, such as the Internet of things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, process automation, and Big Data, what we normally think of is a new human horizon. Maybe, something far beyond our possibilities. A completely different world than the one we already know.

Frequently, we all read about new implementations of nanotechnology in the fields of medicine, industry, computing, and cybernetics. We almost never find nanotechnology and telecommunications in the same sentence, or even in the same paragraph but the truth is that both concepts will have a close relationship in the near future.

Image by Brookhaven National Laboratory | Flickr

The telecommunications boom is not exclusive to our Internet era of instant messaging, video calls, and social networks. We have always known the importance of telecommunications. Since the invention of the telegraph, we know that the technological, industrial, and economic development (just to mention a few examples) we have nowadays is simply unthinkable without the efficient telecommunications that allow the logistical deployment which is necessary for the complex operating web we have waved so far. So, why nanotechnology will be a tremendous catalyst for telecommunications? Well, this technology will allow speed, reliability, and hyperconnectivity levels as we have never seen before. And this, certainly, will change our world.

We owe the union between both concepts to a group of Canadian researchers. The discovery of this team suggests that it is possible to take advantage of the potential of nanorobots to increase the speed of telecommunications due to the capacity of these tiny machines to capture and redirect light. This, strange as it may seem, and although we believe that we cannot advance more than we have done so far, could increase more than a hundred times the capacity of our current systems.

Professor Ted Sargent and his research team have created a laser that can transmit light from one place to another much faster than our current fiber optic systems, and with greater precision. This invention was possible due to small robots that direct light with microscopic accuracy. One of the benefits of nanotechnology is precisely that it is possible to design and build objects and structures taking advantage of the potential of the molecules themselves that compose it all. In this case, those Canadian researchers have created a system that allows the capture and redirection of light, which transmits information, taking advantage of the greatest possible molecular potential.


Read also: This Is How The IoT Will Revolutionize 6 Major Industries, by Peter Foyo


The main obstacle that this team of scientists had to cross has been the wall against which other investigations have crashed in the past. The problem has been that it has not been possible for the materials to reach a full potential at a quantum level. This, in scientific terms, is known as “the Kuzyk gap.” This, as defined by Wikipedia, is a discrepancy between the maximum value of the nonlinear-optical susceptibility allowed by quantum mechanics and the highest values ​​actually observed in real molecules. In simpler words, although quantum mechanics has pointed out a limit to changing signals of light with light — actually, one of the impossible dreams of computing for a long time — what this research discovered is that it is possible to go beyond that point thanks to nanotechnology.

Some might think that the main drawback for this dream of telecommunications is that there are no powerful enough machines to transmit such a large amount of information at such speed. However, this is not entirely true. Today, there are quantum supercomputers, such as the one created by Dwave Systems, for which the processing, transmission, and reception of information by means of laser systems is not a complicated task. What is true is that these quantum supercomputers are expensive and there are not many of them so far.

BASF Chemistry
Image by BASF | Flickr

Nevertheless, it is possible that history repeats itself. In the middle of the last century, the first computers were tremendously large machines and difficult to acquire. In fact, only large companies and universities had available computers, and they thought it was impossible for ordinary people to have access to these machines. Nowadays, after decades of innovations, the boom of the Internet, and the invention of smartphones, such a prophecy falls under its own weight. It is very likely that tomorrow we all have access to quantum computers, and the technological trends point in that direction. In fact, this would save costs since the processors of quantum computers are not silicon-based to integrate the transistors. These, also thanks to nanotechnology, can be built from cheaper materials, and may be even more efficient because the extreme amount of transistors that would be needed for a telecommunication between light particles would be such that the chips would have to operate at an atomic level, taking advantage of the superposition of the quantum particles of light.

Does it sound like science fiction? Indeed. But it has happened before, and here we are.


Recommended: Nanotechnology in Communication Engineering: Issues, Applications, and Future Possibilities