With an ever-increasing number of people relying on Wi-Fi, the technology needs to improve to keep up with demand. Over in Holland, a PhD student may have come up with a solution: a wireless network that uses infrared light to transmit data at speeds in excess of 40 Gbps.
Eindhoven University of Technology Student Joanne Oh worked on a system that uses fiber optic cables – or light antennas - to beam data to wireless devices via rays of harmless infrared light. In testing, she managed to achieve download speeds of 42.8 Gbps over a distance of around 8.5 feet, which is about 2000 times faster than the country’s average Wi-Fi speeds.
As the system can target multiple devices at once, the network won’t get overcrowded. The light antennas are equipped with a pair of gratings that refract light at different angles. The direction of the light can be changed by adjusting the wavelength, with the network able to track each device based on its radio signal. All of which results in a faster connection and no interference.
The infrared system works at a frequency of around 200 terahertz, about 1000 times higher than typical Wi-Fi setups, allowing for fast transmission speeds.
There are a couple of caveats; as infrared doesn’t travel through walls, the system will require antennas in each room of a house, and so far only downloads speeds across short distances have been tested. But the system has amazing potential, is cheap, and the lack of moving parts means low power requirements.
There have been other researchers experimenting with light-based Wi-Fi, but the speeds are low and connected devices have to share bandwidth (and you have to keep the lights on all the time).
Oh’s work is part of the wider BROWSE project headed up by TU/e professor of broadband communication technology Ton Koonen, who expects the new technology to start hitting the stores around five years’ time.