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Facebook develops laser-based high-speed Internet

2016-07-21 03:17 by


Researchers at Facebook's Connectivity Lab have found a new way of detecting optical communication signals travelling through the air, by using lasers. Called free-space optical communication or light-based wireless communication, this technology may be an effective way to bring the Internet to locations where optical fibres and cell towers are too expensive to deploy.

"A large fraction of people don't connect to the internet because the wireless communications infrastructure is not available where they live, mostly in very rural areas of the world," said Tobias Tiecke, who led the research team.

The free-space optical communication surpasses other technologies based on radio frequencies or microwaves and can soon be a reality. It uses a transmitter and a detector placed in a straight line, to send a laser beam loaded with information, wireless, and across long distances. The new sensor also has a structure engineered to catch information passed using light from all directions. The detector offers speeds of up to 2.1 Gbps while still not being an intense laser beam that harms human eyes.

"We demonstrated the use of fluorescent optical fibers that absorb one color and emit another," said Tiecke. "The optical fibers absorb light coming from any direction over a large area, and the emitted light travels inside the optical fiber, which funnels the light to a small, very fast photodetector."

"The fact that these fluorescent optical fibers emit a different color than they absorb makes it possible to increase the brightness of the light entering the system," said Tiecke. "This approach has been used in luminescent concentrators for solar light harvesting, where the speed of the color conversion doesn't matter. We showed that the same concept can be used for communication to circumvent pointing and tracking problems while achieving high speeds."

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