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March 20th, 2006
MIT researchers have developed a tiny light detector that may allow for super-fast broadband communications over interplanetary distances. Currently, even still images from other planets are difficult to retrieve. "It can take hours with the existing wireless radio frequency technology to get useful scientific information back from Mars to Earth. But an optical link can do that thousands of times faster," said Karl Berggren, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).
The detector, which uses nanowires and superconductor technology, can sense extremely low light or laser signals in the infrared part of the optical spectrum -- down to a single photon, the smallest and most basic unit of light. That has not been possible using conventional optical systems.
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