Most things gadgety are seemingly wirelessly enabled in one way or another, and it’s pretty clear that soon everything will be. Now physicists have worked out a way to make it all happen: Microrings, which are tiny radio systems. With lasers!
The image above is a representation of the microrings that boffins at Purdue University have created: Each is a miniscule (10 micron) radio transmitter, crafted into a solid-state device. The tiny circuits are actually activated by 100 femtosecond bursts of light from diode lasers, with complex pulse-profiles that excite the microring into emitting precisely-controlled radio waves.
That all sounds groovy, or possibly mystical if you’re not too into micro-scale radio physics. But let me explain the benefits: It’s easy to make the microring resonators emit radio waves in the region of 60 GHz, far above the 2-5 GHz used in current 802.11b/g/n Wi-fi tech (you can also tune the precise frequency by varying the temperature of the ring with a micro-sized heating element.) And this frequency range has two absolutely cool upsides. First, it’s outside normal commercial, governmental and military radio spectrum bands, and it’s both unlicensed and available world-wide, meaning radio devices in this band could be fantastically useful. Secondly, it enables extremely fast data rates to be achieved–quite definitely enough for HDTV signals, broadband Net signals, and pretty much everything in your future home that’ll be wirelessly connected all controlled from one single base station.
The Purdue success is in miniaturizing the ring resonator devices down to on-chip sizes, so that they’ll be able to be slotted into almost any gadget that benefits from Wi-fi. There’s even the suggestion that they’ll be suitable for in-car wireless comms systems, because the pulsed nature of the radio signals the rings produce is excellent for avoiding signal-sapping radio reflections that the car body can create (and this benefit extends to in-home use too.) It’ll be years until the tech is perfected and commercialized, but basically Purdue’s researches have guaranteed the future will indeed be a wireless-saturated one.