Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia have developed a smart glass system that could harness sunlight for wireless data transmission. This new tech could offer a low-energy alternative to Wi-Fi or cellular data transition by using sunlight to send data.
The science and other stuff to know
The innovative system, which is currently in development, modulates the sunlight passing through the window, encoding data into the light. The data could then be detected and decoded by electronic devices, according to a research paper published in the IEEE Photonics Journal.
Basem Shihada, the lead author, had what he says was a “lightbulb moment” while experimenting with a phone camera.
“I was simply hoping to use a cell phone camera to record a video of the encoded light stream to try to decode the video to retrieve the data,” Shihada said in a statement. “That’s when I thought, why not do the same with the sunlight? That would be much easier and can also be done with a mobile phone camera. So we started researching sunlight as a carrier of information.”
The team has now developed a sunlight communication system that consists of two parts.
“There’s a light modulator that can be embedded in a glass surface and a receiver in the room,” explained Osama Amin, a research scientist at Shihada’s labs. “The modulator is an array of our proposed smart glass elements known as Dual-Cell Liquid Crystal Shutters (DLSs).”
While traditional Wi-Fi routers use between 5 and 20 watts of electricity, the DLSs — which would act like a filter to encode signals as they passed into the light — require just 1 watt. And this power could be supplied by a small solar panel, according to the scientists.
Of course, the system would only work while the sun is shining, but it can save energy during the day.
Currently, the system could transmit data at a rate of 16 kilobits per second. The team aims to increase the data transmission speed from kilobits to megabits and gigabits per second.
There are already systems out there that can transmit data through flickering light patterns, but they use artificial light. This new system, however, will do it with sunlight, modulating it as it passes through specialized windows.