Researchers see light as the new WiFi

Researchers at Boston University's College of Engineering are literally interpreting the phrase "lighting up a network." The college, along with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of New Mexico are partners in an $18.5 million National Science Foundation (NSF) program to develop ways to use visible light to generate communications technology instead of radio waves.

The multi-year program will use low-power light emitting diodes (LEDs) to create smart lighting that would become the equivalent of a WiFi access point. Similar to the IR technology used for TV remotes, the white light would provide Internet connections to multiple devices within a room. Besides replacing the wireless network, it would also replace most conventional lighting devices and serve the dual purpose of lighting up a room and a network.

Rensselaer and UNM are tasked with creating novel devices and system applications ad materials to interface with the network. BU will focus on developing computer networking capabilities and the optical technology for the network's backbone. The university expects to get $1 million in funding for the next 10 years from the NSF and outside funding from industrial partners and entrepreneurs.

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