Wi-Fi has become essential to our everyday lives, which is why slow speeds piss us all off. Luckily, a group of students in the Netherlands has come up with a potentially groundbreaking idea: using infrared rays to carry wireless data to your laptop or smartphone.
Researchers out of Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands recently achieved Wi-Fi speeds of 42.8 Gbit/s on a network that uses infrared rays to transmit data. The innovations could help solve common capacity and bandwidth issues as users consume ever more data in the future.
As reported Friday on ScienceDaily, the 42.8 Gbit/s is achieved per ray of light. And, as each device would have access to its own ray of light, user devices wouldn’t need to share bandwidth.
What the report called “light antennas”, which would be supplied by optical fiber, would provide the rays. According to the report, the systems could, in theory, be low cost and could be installed on the ceiling of a business or home, for example.
“Since there are no moving parts, it is maintenance-free and needs no power: the antennas contain a pair of gratings that radiate light rays of different wavelengths at different angles,” the report said.
If a user moves out of the line of sight of one of the antennas, the signal would jump to another nearby antenna. User devices could be tracked by radio signals they transmit, so the network knows which antenna to utilize. The infrared network wouldn’t have to deal with any interference from close-by Wi-Fi networks either.
Whereas traditional Wi-Fi utilizes 2.5 or 5 gigahertz radio signals, Eindhoven’s system relies on light wavelengths of 1500 nanometers or more, which has very high frequencies allowing for the larger capacity. Eindhoven researcher Joanne Oh was able to achieve the listed 42.8 Gbit/s speed from 2.5 meters away. This was the subject for which she received her PhD degree with the “cum laude” distinction last week. So far, though, the system has only been used with downloads, not uploads yet.
Infrared light is harmless to the human eye, so you won’t have to avert your gaze. Eindhoven professor and project head Tom Koonen thinks it won’t be too long before we see this technology be commercially available, estimating a short five years until we start seeing light-enabled WiFi devices like laptops and video monitors.
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