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Lunch Hour Lecture: The illusion of infinity – is there a limit to optical fibre bandwidth?

ThomasHughes17 February 2016

Heliograph in use via Wikimedia Commons.

Heliograph in use via Wikimedia Commons.

Professor Polina Bayvel (UCL Electronic & Electrical Engineering) opened her Lunch Hour Lecture with the worrying fact that our internet capacity is finite and we are fast approaching that limit. What can we do to find new capacity so that our optical fibre can manage the growth of the coming decades?

Professor Bayvel explained that optical communications have been a part of human communications for millennia. Fire and smoke signals, heliographs and Aldis lamps (which both use flashes of light to signal) are all forms of communication called “free space communications”. These were important for our predecessors’ long distance communications, but with the major flaw that they didn’t work on cloudy or otherwise poor visibility days.

Modern communications are almost entirely built around optical fibre networks. These work by bouncing beams of light along glass cables. The light is received and decoded into whatever information was requested. They allow huge amounts of data to travel long distances, and with the help of repeaters which receive the signal and rebroadcast it, can travel around the whole world.

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UCLoo Festival kickstarts the eco-sanitation discussion

newseditor25 November 2013

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Written by Kate Oliver, Faculty Communications Manager for UCL Engineering

It’s a cold November afternoon and UCL’s President & Provost is standing in the Main Quad, waiting for the newest loo on campus to be free. He’s not the only one; a queue of students, staff and miscellaneous toilet fans snakes past the Portico, hinting at the fact that a further 2.6 million people are still waiting for their toilets.

UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur opens the UCLoo festival

The sudden enthusiasm for sanitation is not a campus crisis: the loo in question is a special environmental composting model, installed in the Quad as the centrepiece of UCLoo Festival. Kicking off on the first UN-recognised World Toilet Day (19 Nov, of course) these two weeks of activities, events and exhibitions invite London to UCL, hoping to start a discussion about the future of water-based sanitation in urban environments, as well as raising awareness of sanitation issues worldwide.

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