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U Edinburgh Develops Solar Cell-Based Wireless Communication

Researchers at the Edinburgh Research & Innovation (ERI), the commercialization arm of the University of Edinburgh, has developed new solar-based wireless networking technology that has the potential to deliver almost energy-neutral broadband Internet access anywhere.

The technology uses light to transmit data, while solar panels act as both a power source and broadband receiver for the so-called Light Fidelity, or Li-Fi, communications.

A team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh's Li-Fi Centre developed a prototype of the technology in collaboration with pureLiFi, a company that originated at the University of Edinburgh. Harald Haas, a professor at the university and the project's leader, demonstrated the technology at the TED Global 2015 event held in London this year.

"The data is encoded in subtle changes in the brightness of the [light]," said Haas in his TED Talk. The light is received by a solar panel, "so if the incoming light fluctuates, so does the energy harvested from the solar cell" and "the fluctuations of the energy harvested correspond to the data transmitted." The Li-Fi signals could be transmitted from a tower on a hill to solar panels on the roof of a building.

Haas anticipates that the technology will be ready to go to market "within the next two to three years," he said in the TED Talk. Eventually, it could be used to deliver broadband wireless Internet access to rural areas and parts of the developing world that currently do not have the required power and communications infrastructure to deliver broadband Internet access. It could also be integrated into urban infrastructure and the Internet of things (IoT).

"ERI is now looking for industrial partners to work with the University's Li-Fi R&D Centre to develop the technology for commercial use," stated a report in Renewable Energy Focus.

The demonstration by Harald Haas can be found on the TED site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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