Windows is quickly becoming a portal to the future.
Swiss scientists are already paving the way for electricity-generating windows that could help power our homes and appliances. But now, Saudi researchers have developed technology capable of transmitting a wireless internet signal powered by the Sun through specialized glass.
“I hope that [in future] modern, smart office buildings with huge glass windows will work with the internet based on this technology,” Professor Osama Amin, the project’s principal researcher at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, told Euronews Next.
The team of scientists say that if they manage to achieve high data throughput, they will be able to do “anything”.
Their window technology for transferring data over the Internet is still in its infancy, with a broadband speed of around 15-16 Kbps.
“The intention is to drastically improve this number, but for now it can already be used for IoT applications because the sensors need a low data rate,” he said.
“We are going towards the smart home. And any type of sensor should benefit from it”.
Sunlight turned into binary ones and zeros
So how does it work? Imagine glass windows as a modem, says Amin.
The Saudi innovation uses the polarization of sunlight to transfer data using smart glass elements known as dual-cell liquid crystal shutters (DLS).
Electromagnetic polarization is one of the properties of electromagnetic waves, such as light.
Polarized sunglasses, for example, use electromagnetic polarization to filter light. They block reflected light and allow only useful light through, reducing eye strain and glare to facilitate safe and comfortable viewing for the eyes.
“Unpolarized light has a lot of direction, but polarization organizes direction, allowing some light to pass and some not to pass,” Amin explained.
But what is the relationship with the Internet?
Polarization allows sunlight to be organized into “a kind of one and zero language, which is predetermined by the original data from a LAN cable connected to the edge of the smart glass,” he said. added.
“A LAN cable goes to the router, then we can have this WiFi signal. In our system, the LAN cable will be connected to the edge of the glass, the glass will be a transmitter for the land cable, and instead of using electricity to propagate the signal, it will only use sunlight”.
The variation in light, imperceptible to the human eye, communicates Internet data wirelessly to devices in the room.
“Basically what we’ve done is a small device with multiple layers. And these layers can change the polarity of light by modeling the transparency of glass. And when you change the opacity very quickly, a data flow happens,” said Sahar Ammar, PhD. Student who participated in the research.
Are our devices ready to capture the Internet from the glass?
Usually, wireless communication technologies are based on either radio frequency communication or optical communication which requires energy-intensive active light sources, such as lasers and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
The Saudi system works like any visible light communication (VLC) system, which modulates light from LEDs to carry information.
However, the team’s approach is innovative because it also modulates the intensity of natural sunlight while encoding internet data into it through the opacity of the glass, which can then be detected and decoded by devices in the room.
Devices that could potentially benefit from solar-powered data transfer technology must be specially designed to detect polarized information.
However, smartphone camera developers are already working to make devices capable of deciphering data sent in this way.
“Using sustainable sunlight for data transmission as a green option for wireless communications is the goal,” he added.
The research was published in the journal IEEE Photonic in October.
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