Researchers want to commercialise integrated solar panel technology that uses visible spectrum to power devices and transmit data
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh say self-powering solar panels could provide high speed Internet to the most remote parts of Earth by using visible light spectrum, also known as ‘Li-Fi’ technology.
Google and Facebook are among the technology firms looking to provide connectivity to the estimated four billion people who lack it through initiatives like Internet.org and Project Loon, the latter of which makes use of hot air balloons.
However Professor Harald Haas and his team at the University’s Li-Fi R&D Centre say the ability for a solar panel to provide both power and data means it has the ability to cover just about anywhere in the world without the need for mains electricity and at the cost of a panel and an LED light.
Haas, who coined the term Li-Fi, and his team have been working on the integration of power gathering and data reception and are now looking for industrial partners to commercialise the technology. PureLiFi, the University’s commercial arm, has already created a smartwatch prototype.
Li-Fi could also have uses in developed countries, particularly for powering wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT). Haas believes the technology could be particularly useful for smartwatches which require frequent charges.
Similarly, one of the biggest challenges for IoT adoption has been power consumption. Many equipment manufacturers have been working on extending the battery life of sensors so they can last for up to ten years without needing to be replaced.
“The potential expansion to the internet is massive and my aspiration is that this broadband solar panel receiver technology for Li-Fi will help solve the challenges of the digital divide throughout the world, and catalyse the uptake of the IoT as connectivity and battery-free power supplies are essential if we want to connect a trillion objects to the Internet,” said Haas.
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