Forget Wi-Fi, China's new Li-Fi network is powered by lightbulbs

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Forget Wi-Fi, China's new Li-Fi network is powered by lightbulbs
Chinese scientists have indicated through experiments the possibility of getting online on Internet with the help of signals sent by light bulbs (Li-Fi) instead of Wi-Fi.

A one-watt LED light bulb may connect four computers to Internet under the principle that light can be used as a carrier wave instead of traditional radio frequencies, as in the case of Wi-Fi, said Chi Nan, an information technology professor in Shanghai's Fudan University, Thursday.

A light bulb with embedded microchips can produce data rate as fast as 150 megabits per second, which is faster than the average broadband connection in China, said Chi. He leads a Li-Fi research team including scientists from the Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, reports Xinhua.

Data rate refers to the rate at which circuits or other devices operate when handling digital information.

The term Li-Fi was coined by Harald Haas from the University of Edinburgh, Britain, and refers to a type of visible light communication technology that delivers a networked, mobile, high-speed communication solution in a similar way as Wi-Fi.

People should be excited to view samples of Li-Fi kits, as these are cost-effective and efficient. Ten such samples will be on display at the China International Industry Fair starting Nov 5 in Shanghai.

The current equipment for wireless signal transmission is expensive and less efficient, said Chi.

"Millions of base stations have been established for strengthening the signals of cell phones, but most of the energy is consumed for their cooling systems," she explained.

"The energy utilization rate is only five percent," said Chi.

The number of light bulbs that can be used is practically limitless compared with base stations. Chinese people are replacing the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs with LED light bulbs.

Still, there is a long way to go before making Li-Fi a commercial success. "If the light is blocked, then the signal will be cut off," said Chi.

The development of a series of key, related technological equipment, including light communication controls and microchip design and manufacturing, is still in an experimental period, according to the scientist.

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