Experiments undertaken by scientists at Harvard University could pave the way for new ultrafast Wi-Fi technologies in the future.
A team from the institution's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have for the first time successfully transmitted audio data wirelessly via a semiconductor laser.
The researchers demonstrated a laser beam that is able to emit microwaves wirelessly, modulate them, and receive external radio frequency signals.
Federico Capasso, professor of applied physics and senior author of the study, said: “The research opens the door to new types of hybrid electronic-photonic devices and is the first step toward ultra-high-speed Wi-Fi."
As data volumes grow, the challenge of being able to send and receive extremely large amounts of information wirelessly without performance dropping off or bottlenecks emerging is set to be increasingly important in the coming years, and the new paper therefore illustrated a potential new method of achieving the speeds that will be required in years to come.
Post-doctoral fellow at SEAS and report author Marco Piccardo explains the work builds on a 2018 discovery that found different frequencies of light within the laser beam beat together to generate microwave radiation, causing electrons to oscillate at frequencies that are within the communications spectrum.
"If you want to use this device for Wi-Fi, you need to be able to put useful information in the microwave signals and extract that information from the device,” Dr Piccardo explained.
The researchers therefore created a device that could encode information into the signal before it is transmitted, as well as receive it at the other end, decode it and transmit it in familiar data forms.
For initial tests, Dean Martin's recording of the song Volare was used, demonstrating how the method could potentially be used to broadcast usable information.
Dr Piccardo said: "This all-in-one, integrated device holds great promise for wireless communication. While the dream of terahertz wireless communication is still a ways away, this research provides a clear roadmap showing how to get there."