Researchers Sent Wireless Messages using NeutrinosThe future of communications might not be radio waves at all. Neutrinos, the ever-present, insanely hard to detect, almost mass-less particles that travel through pretty much everything with ease, have now been used for communications.
After rigging and emitter and a receiver at either end, researchers from the University of Rochester and North Carolina State University sent the message “neutrinos” through 240 meters of solid rock. That is 787 feet, for those who don’t do metric. Otherwise known as “a very long distance.” Said Dan Stancil, professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and lead author of the research paper:
"Using neutrinos, it would be possible to communicate between any two points on Earth without using satellites or cables. Neutrino communication systems would be much more complicated than today's systems, but may have important strategic uses."While neutrinos transmitters will probably never replace the receivers in your phone, it does have a powerful potential application for the backbone of the internet.
While light might seem fast, transmitting signals to orbit and then sending them around the circumference of the world introduces some significant latency into the system. That latency, meanwhile, wrecks download speeds from distant places. And it makes the interactive web that we know and love impossible without placing servers all over the world.
Neutrino connections traveling through the Earth would drastically cut down on the signal latency, and loading a page from China might happen nearly as fast as loading a site from a server a couple miles away. not to mention the possibilities for online gaming.
Oh, or we could send messages to things on the far side of the moon as if they were in a clear line of sight.
Neutrinos have long been theorized as a possible method for broadcasting data, but the very thing that makes them so useful for data transmission makes it very difficult to use them for it. Neutrinos go through pretty much anything with ease. That means actually detecting them is almost impossible. If you ever get bored, take a look at this Wikipedia article on neutrino detectors. Said Kevin McFarland, a University of Rochester physics professor:
"Of course, our current technology takes massive amounts of high-tech equipment to communicate a message using neutrinos, so this isn't practical now. But the first step toward someday using neutrinos for communication in a practical application is a demonstration using today's technology."
In fact, this technology is still far outside of our reach. The team had to use Fermilab’s particle accelerator, one of the most powerful in the world, to generate the neutrinos. Then the team had to use MINERvA, a massive neutrino detector located 100 meters underground so that cosmic radiation wouldn’t interfere with the neutrino spotting. And sending the message of just 9 characters still took 2 hours.
But if the scientists can master the finer points of neutrino generation and detecion, then long distance communication through pretty much anything becomes feasible.