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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R00689X/1
Title: Super Receivers for Visible Light Communications
Principal Investigator: Collins, Dr S
Other Investigators:
O'Brien, Professor DC
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
pureLiFi Ltd ST Microelectronics
Department: Engineering Science
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 August 2017 Ends: 31 July 2020 Value (£): 411,008
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Optical Communications Optoelect. Devices & Circuits
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Communications
Related Grants:
EP/R005281/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
01 Jun 2017 EPSRC ICT Prioritisation Panel June 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
In the near future, light emitting diodes (LEDs) will replace all other sources of light - from the lamps that light homes and offices to the headlights of cars. As well as providing illumination, these LEDs can be used to transmit data, and so offer an opportunity to create a new wireless infrastructure for data transmission. The demand for wireless communications to smartphones, watches, tablets and other devices is growing at a rate of 50% per year, and new technologies are needed to augment the capacity of conventional WiFi. Using LEDs in visible light communications offers a huge potential capacity to support this growth and to provide new services that use localised wireless communications.

While LEDs can transmit the information, an optical receiver is needed to collect the transmitted light, convert it to an electrical signal and extract the transmitted data. The maximum amount of light that can be transmitted is limited by the illumination brightness and concerns for the eye safety and comfort of users. The sensitivity of the receiver therefore ultimately determines the range over which optical data can be transmitted and/or the maximum possible data rate. The sensitivity of existing receivers for visible light communications is limited by a combination of the methods used to collect light and the devices used to convert this light to an electrical signal.

In this project we aim to create new super receivers that are significantly more sensitive than existing optical receivers; that overcome conventional limits for combining speed, sensitivity and easy alignment; that are thin and flexible enough to be easily integrated onto any device. A dramatic change in performance will be achieved by combining two technologies- fluorescent concentrators and arrays of single-photon avalanche photodiodes- in a receiver for the first time. The first will use fluorescent materials to absorb the transmitted light signal and re-emit it at a different wavelength onto the detector. Using this method we will collect light over large areas using a thin, flexible layer which guides and concentrates the emitted light to its edges.

The second technology is a light detector capable of detecting individual photons. We will develop methods to count photons from the transmitter in the presence of ambient light. We will explore how to optimise the fluorescent materials and light collecting layer to efficiently concentrate light onto one or more light detectors, and develop methods to maximise the amount of data transmitted by optimising how the data is represented. These super receivers will be tested in free-space visible light communications links to quantify their performance. Our estimates suggest that this approach could lead to a 100 times improvement in performance over current receivers, enabling faster data transmission, longer transmission ranges and the ability to operate in difficult environments, such as in the presence of bright ambient light.

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Organisation Website: http://www.ox.ac.uk