What if Information Traveled at the Speed of Light?

Aug 16, 2011
Currently, the use of LEDs has been for lighting purposes that are energy-efficient and low-maintenance, a highly appealing solution from anywhere in the home to lighting a stadium. Except, there are now German researchers that may have just found an entirely new application LED manufacturers would consider in the future.

Research engineer Anagnostis Paraskevopoulos at the Fraunhofer Insitute for Telecommunications in Berlin puts the revolutionary idea simply: "We think it is advantageous if you can transmit data through these illuminating devices." In other words, we may be using LEDs someday to transmit data wirelessly.

Researchers at the Insitute made only a few changes to LED circuitry that made it possible to transfer information optically. The LED flickers at an incredibly high speed, imperceptible to human eyes. In fact, the ceiling LED lights were capable of sending four high-def videos to four laptops at the same time. 

There are many possibilities if such a technology should be available, eliminating hassles like electromagnetic interference experienced with the low frequencies of current wireless networks. From the cost point of view, LEDs are also a good option, both because of the energy-efficiency and because current trends expect LED light costs to continue going down. The focus is also on LEDs because the are more eco- and user-friendly compared to CFLs and incandescents. Unlike other lights, they don't contain substances like mercury or phosphor, and "have the capacity to last for tens of years."

Other countries such as the US, the UK, Japan, and China have been developing what has come to be called "smart lights," breaking transmission records each time. The speeds reached in this round of experiments were 800 megabits per second. The German researchers also emphasize the point of how easily the signal-transmitting LEDs can be built, and plan to display what they have so far developed at a trade show in the Fall. 

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Author:  Rebecca Milne

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