New 'time cloak' makes data invisible

By Kristen Butler,
Light through optical fiber. (CC/Raj Beria)
Light through optical fiber. (CC/Raj Beria)

The "once fanciful invisibility cloak" is now possible, according to the authors of a new study, except it cloaks events in time, not space.

The team from Purdue University in Indiana has shown it can manipulate the speed of light in optical fibers to create "holes in time." Anything that occurs in these pockets remains undetected.


The study, published in the journal Nature, builds on previous research of a time cloak, which, when described last year, could only hide a few billionths of a second in time in an optical beam, and not very often.

The Purdue researchers developed a new technique for temporal cloaking that "operates at telecommunication data rates" and uses commercial telecom components.

They were able to hide data -- that is, ones and zeroes -- nearly half of the time.

"We succeed in cloaking 46 percent of the entire time axis and conceal pseudorandom digital data at a rate of 12.7 gigabits per second," the authors wrote.

By manipulating a beam of light forward or backward in time, the light avoids any data events that would normally interrupt the beam. The cloak provides a space where one can't see how the light is being changed.


"This potential to cloak real-world messages introduces temporal cloaking into the sphere of practical application, with immediate ramifications in secure communications," according to the study.

A huge advance in temporal cloaking, the new method could be used for securing data, confidential information or monitoring communication.

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