Purdue University graduate student Xiaozhe Fan measures how much light is emitted by a GaAs solar cell. The light emitted by the solar cell is modulated to convey information.
Purdue University graduate student Xiaozhe Fan measures how much light is emitted by a GaAs solar cell. The light emitted by the solar cell is modulated to convey information.

IoT devices need a wireless means of communications to be truly seamless so they can be easily integrated in everyday objects and harvest energy from their environments to avoid frequent recharging. Purdue University researchers have developed a system that uses solar cells as optical antennas to transmit and receive information wirelessly between various devices. The light that activates the solar cells may come from ambient light or from a reader that actively illuminates the solar cell. Light energy is the most available form of ambient energy, with much higher energy density levels than radio-frequency or mechanical ambient energy sources.

The current radio-frequency energy systems make it nearly impossible for a homeowner to tell where signals are coming from — the signals are very difficult to trace back to the original sending location. The Purdue light system makes it very easy, since light is easy to trace back to a source. It’s kind of like when you take a picture with a camera, you can tell from the photo where the camera was located in relation to the objects being photographed.

Purdue’s system would allow a user to easily connect many different kinds of electronic devices across a home. The technology also works with a backup battery for when light is not available.

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