An international team of researchers led by Newcastle University, UK, has developed a visible light communication (VLC) setup that is reportedly able to transfer data at a rate of 2.2 Mbps through the use of a new type of organic light-emitting diode (OLED).
The Newcastle-led research team published its findings in the journal Light Science & Applications and claims that the new OLEDs create opportunities for new internet of things, or IoT, applications, as well as other applications in wearable and implantable biosensor technology.
A Better Way to Go?
VLC systems are an alternative to the radio-based wireless networks that are used today. Through existing in-building lighting systems, they use light waves to transmit data. More specifically, modulated light is used as a data carrier while actual light is provided by the visible spectrum. It is a simple, safe, and inexpensive way to transmit data that can be incorporated into existing light fixtures or worked into displays and other surfaces.
So far, VLC systems have used regular LEDs because they are powerful enough to meet system requirements. However, some researchers believe that OLED, i.e. the organic variant of the LED, is a better way to go. This is because OLED technology, much like VLC systems, are cheaper to manufacture and easier to distribute through methods like inkjet and spraying. According to the research team, moreover, point-to-point links made using OLED VLC systems could address sustainability concerns better than regular LEDs, as OLEDs don’t contain heavy metals.
A close-up of Newcastle University’s organic light-emitting diode technology. Image Credit: Newcastle University.
A New Type of OLED
The above may all sound great on paper. However, OLED data rates aren’t the best. They simply aren’t as powerful as traditional LED technology. This is where the Newcastle research team’s work comes in. They believe that a new type of OLED could achieve the fast data speeds that a VLC-driven IoT communications network would require. What’s more, the OLED would be far more sustainable as they have an entirely organic makeup.
In this study, the Newcastle researchers describe an OLED that provides 2.2 Mbps in speed. This is more than enough for many new types of IoT sensors. Most notably, their technology performs without the equalisation process—wherein a specific band’s energy is made higher or lower to improve data rates and bandwidth—which cuts down on power use.
Write the Newcastle University researchers in their journal paper: “In recent years, the increasing demand for faster data transmission speeds has shifted the attention of researchers from bandwidth-limited radio technologies to optical wireless communication systems, which offer ‘practically’ unlimited bandwidth”.
The data rate achieved by the Newcastle University team is high enough to support an indoor point-to-point link and ultimately claim that it’s a promising step forward for the integration of wearable and implantable biosensors.