South Korean researchers from the Pukyong National University are using lights to replace wires in medical treatment via light fidelity, or "Li-Fi." The technology transmits information through a visible light communication, or VLC, link using the red, green and blue spectrums of LED lights.
The study was initially introduced for medical use, giving physicians the ability to perform EEG and ECG tests without attaching patients to a network of wires. According to the researchers, information has been successfully sent from a distance of 50 cm if the LED signal is amplified via a color filter. Study leader Yeon Ho Chung said the signals are still quite weak, reaching frequencies between 0.5 and 45 hertz at powers of 0.5 to 100 millivolts.
Because the technology functions over light, rather than radio frequencies, the system doesn't infringe on already-crowded radio spectrums. In the wireless world, this could translate to increased data rates and information transmission without the traditional limitations of radio.
This isn't the first time Li-Fi has been proposed for tech purposes. In 2014, University of Edinburgh researchers tested the technology using customized organic LEDs (OLEDs) to increase bandwidth through flickering light signals. Earlier this year, the IEEE reported that the team was adapting the same technology to instead use laser light, which researcher Harald Hass said could increase Li-Fi's 10 Gbps data rate speeds "easily beyond 100 Gbps."
Additionally, researchers at the University of Virginia have used light fidelity as a supplement to traditional Wi-Fi networks. In February, a study at Oxford University used infrared light to deliver high-speed data.
Because Li-Fi technology doesn't cause potentially harmful radio interactions in hospitals, the Korean team is looking to expand technology to other medical uses like electrocardiogram, which other Pukyong researchers have tested, or electrooculography eye movement readings.
Other short range wireless devices, like Bluetooth and near field communication (NFC) are often used for similar applications, although both of those technologies operate via radio frequencies.
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