LEDs might soon be used to deliver Wi-Fi, act as display, and illuminate room simultaneously
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Now that we’ve finally become familiar with LED technology, a group of U.K.-based universities is getting ready to blow the lid off everything we thought we knew about it.
With funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the group — led by the University of Strathclyde — will spend the next four years expanding an innovative technology referred to as “Li-Fi” — the transmission of internet communications using visible light as opposed to radio waves and microwaves.
How the technology works
LEDs flicker on and off at a rate of thousands of times per second. If this rate is altered, it is possible to also send digital information to specially adapted computers and other electronic devices, somewhat akin to how Morse code works.
Doing this would make the visible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum available for Internet communications, thereby easing pressure on some of the technologies that are starting to be overused nowadays.
What the group wants to do
As opposed to continuing to develop LEDs at their standard 1-mm2 size, the group wants to develop smaller, micron-sized LEDs. This offers plenty of advantages, chief among them that the LEDs themselves will be able to flicker on and off at a rate 1,000 times faster than their larger counterparts which, in turn, would allow them to transmit data more quickly.
In addition to this, the group says that it will be able to fit 1,000 micron-sized LEDs across the same amount of space as 1mm2 LED. Consider that each of these tiny LEDs acts as a separate communication channel, and you see the potential that this approach has to offer. The group theorizes that a 1-mm2 array of micron-sized LEDs could communicate a million times as much information as a single 1-mm2 LED.
What’s amazing is that the potential for this technology doesn’t stop there: each micron-sized LED can also act as a tiny pixel. That means a display of these specially sized LEDs could be used as a screen to display visual information . . . at the same time it’s providing Wi-Fi . . . and illuminating the room.
Professor Martin Dawson of the University of Strathclyde, who is leading the study, reflects upon the technology’s possibility: “Imagine an LED array beside a motorway helping to light the road, displaying the latest traffic updates and transmitting Internet information wirelessly to passengers’ laptops, netbooks, and smartphones. This is the kind of extraordinary, energy-saving parallelism that we believe our pioneering technology could deliver.”