Facebook is looking for ways to increase the effectiveness of its solar powered Internet drones to deliver data to people in remote, rural areas using lasers, and its researchers think one answer may lie in fluorescent materials.
A team of researchers in the company’s Connectivity Lab have released a paper explaining how they improved their ability to send and receive information with light, using an optical detector coated in shifting fluorescent dyes that can absorb light and resend it at different wavelengths. The 126 square-centimeter detector enabled them to expand the area to which a laser can send data, at rates up to 2.1 Gbps at an eye-safe intensity, and without the need for accurate pointing and tracking.
Lasers are currently used to transmit data across optical fiber networks, while wireless networks use radio frequencies and microwaves. Lasers could be much faster, but directing a small beam of laser light at a detector some distance away is tricky. This development, says Facebook, “could one day make light-based wireless communications ubiquitous.”
However, the proposed technology won’t be enough for the company’s Project Aquila to start connecting the unconnected. Battery life remains a challenge, and Facebook’s drones and their lasers will still have to contend with noise and other disruptions due to environmental factors. [PC World]