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Lab-Based “Li-Fi” Link Exceeds 7 Gb/s Using Blue Micro LED

Sept. 22, 2020
Taking advantage of a blue GaN micro LED, researchers succeeded in operating a free-space optical link at over 7 Gb/s, possibly functioning as a precursor of a super-speed LiFi type link.

As an optically based complement to RF-based Wi-Fi, Li-Fi (light fidelity) offers distinct attributes including potentially extremely high throughout over limited distances and immunity from (and non-sourcing of) EMI/RFI. One other characteristic of an optical link can be considered either a benefit or a drawback: Its line-of-sight path provides outstanding immunity to eavesdropping and hacking, but also limits user mobility.

Adoption of Li-Fi in the marketplace has been very limited thus far. However, there’s an industry association that provides standards and support, and there’s the potential for using a single LED bulb/photoreceptor unit as both light source and Li-Fi node (see Resources below).

Researchers, of course, see pushing the envelope of optical-based data links as an area of great interest. A team at Leti (a research institute of CEA Tech, Grenoble, France) has achieved a visible light communication (VLC) test-bed transmission at 7.7 Gb/s (significantly exceeding the previous 5.1-Gb/s record) using a single, 10-µm diameter, gallium-nitride (GaN) blue micro LED (Fig. 1). (In general, a smaller emissive area of the LED yields a higher bandwidth—here, 1.8 GHz in the institute’s single-blue micro LED project.)

In addition to the micro LED, the team also developed an advanced multi-carrier modulation scheme combined with digital signal processing to achieve their results. This high spectrum-efficiency waveform was transmitted by the single LED, received on a high-speed photodetector, and demodulated using a direct sampling oscilloscope (Fig. 2).

This class of experimental test bed requires many electro-optical components as well as test-and-measurement equipment for support, including these:

While the Light Communications Alliance (created in 2019) is intended to encourage the industry to implement standardization and promote interoperability between LiFi systems from different manufacturers, CEA-Leti is planning to continue its research in two areas:

  • Developing a better understanding of the electrical behavior of single LEDs in high-frequency regimes and the link between bandwidth and electromigration patterns.
  • Investigating techniques to improve the range and/or increase the data rate using a matrix of multi-LED emissive devices. This requires adapting the waveform generation as well as a CMOS interposer to drive the matrix on a pixel basis.

LiFi Resources

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