Lasers make everything better. Lasers can make random numbers that are perfect for encryption. Lasers can blow up an iPad. Lasers might eventually allow us to use nuclear fusion as a power source. That’s already impressive, but is it possible that they could actually make our wireless networks faster, and all around better? In certain very specific cases, yes.
Engineers at the National Taipei University of Technology in Taiwan have been toying around with creating a Wi-Fi network that utilizes standard, widely available laser pointers, and they’ve achieved a lot in the process. With equipment that’s available to anyone who can scrounge up $600, the researchers rigged standard laser pointers to power sources that could flip the lasers off and on at a rate of 500 million times a second and pointed them at light sensative detectors about 30 yards (10 meters) away.
The result was a wireless network with a transmission speed of about 1 Gbps, roughly twice the speed of your standard USB 2.0 connection, or a really good, standard Wi-Fi network. So, are we going to start seeing these everywhere? Probably not. There’s one huge disadvantage to these laser networks; they are incredibly directional. With radio Wi-Fi you can be anywhere in what is basically a sphere around the router. With laser Wi-Fi, you have to be standing on a target. You’d also be hard pressed to use laser networking outside, considering that fog, dust, and physical objects present a much bigger barrier to lasers than they do to radio waves.
That said, there are applications for this tech, mainly in indoor places where things don’t need to move and places where radio Wi-Fi is a problem for whatever reason, like hospitals. You might not have an opportunity to use laser networking in the near future, but rest assured it’s out there, and that’s something to be happy about, because lasers. Just, lasers.
(via New Scientist)