Line's Busy?

Lawrence,KS (02-14-2003)

From Science Coalition Web site
By Roger Martin and Michelle Ward

Over a phone line, it might not hurt if the word "Jell-O" sounds, at the other end, like "yellow." But if a bank transaction gets scrambled in the process of elbowing its way through a crowd of information traveling along an information-packed, high-speed fiber optic cable, that's another story.

So Chris Allen, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and some of his department colleagues developed a card to unscramble data at the receiving end of a transmission that will be made through the high-speed fiber-optic cable of the future.

The core within a fiber optic cable has to be perfectly circular to work correctly. Otherwise, data traveling through it get messed up. Changes in temperature, pressure and other stresses also make the cable unpredictable.

Meanwhile, increasing amounts of information are being transmitted over cable. Internet communication involves words and pictures, audio and video files; as it all gets pushed through cable, the likelihood of scrambling goes up. Thus the need for decoders of scrambled information like the card Allen's group came up with.

Allen and his group set out to neutralize the harmful effects of polarization-mode dispersion, or PMD, the name for the source of the data corruption that occurs in high-speed fiber-optic networks.

At current data rates, PMD is so small that it goes unnoticed. It becomes a significant problem at higher data rates, which are needed to provide greater network capacity, Allen said.

Allen; Ken Demarest, professor in electrical engineering and computer science; and Ron Hui, associate professor in electrical engineering and computer science, created the Adaptive PMD Compensator, along with student Hok Yong Pua and postdoctoral researcher Kumar Vijay Peddanarappagari at KU's Information and Telecommunication Technology Center.

The research was sponsored by Sprint.

To read about other KU projects Roger Martin profiled, you can log on to Science Coalition is a Washington,D.C., lobbying group that advocates for university research to the Congress. To learn more about the Coalition, please log on to

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