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China achieves wireless Internet access via lightbulbs

Using technology dubbed Li-Fi, scientists have pulled off getting online four computers under a one-watt LED lightbulb, which could eventually be a more cost-effective alternative to Wi-Fi in the country.
Written by Ryan Huang, Contributor

Chinese scientists have made headway with successful experiments using Li-Fi technology, where wireless signals are sent by lightbulbs, according to Xinhua News.

chi nan fudan university
Professor Chi Nan, Fudan University. (credit: Fudan University)

Four computers under a one-watt LED lightbulb may connect to the Internet under the principle that light can be used as a carrier instead of traditional radio frequencies, said Chi Nan, an IT professor at Shanghai's Fudan University.
She explained a lightbulb with embedded microchips can produce data rates as fast as 150 Mbps, much higher than the average broadband connection in China.

Current wireless signal transmission equipment is expensive and low in efficiency, noted Chi in the article. "As for cell phones, millions of base stations have been established around the world to strengthen the signal but most of the energy is consumed on their cooling systems," she explained, but noted the energy utilization rate was only 5 percent."

However, Chi noted there was still a long way to go in making Li-Fi commercially successful. "If the light is blocked, then the signal will be cut off," she explained. The professor added the development of key related technologies were still in the experimental phase, such as light communication controls, microchip design and manufacturing.

The term Li-Fi was coined as early as 2011 by Harald Haas, a professor of engineering at Edinburgh University, with the name standing for "light-fidelity". The technology made use of LED bulbs that glow and darken faster than the human eye can see, and LED lights being semiconductors could be programmable.

Haas had suggested that the applications and capacity for data would be limitless, ranging from using car headlights to transmit data, or employing line of sight light sources as data transmitters.

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