Two Cool Breakthrough Technologies for 2016
2 Cool Breakthrough Technologies for 2016
Light bulbs as wireless hotspots — and 100x faster? Electromagnetic waves that make objects disappear? This stuff is intense. Game-changing. And it’s HERE.
Technological innovation never sleeps. Even the youngest members of today’s workforce can remember a time when cell phones didn’t connect to the Internet or music was played off cassettes and CDs rather than streamed. In 2016, more game-changing tech is on the horizon — including these two new breakthrough technologies that offer opportunities that are, well, just plain cool.
Wi-Fi Too Slow? Turn on the Light
Today, businesses and homes alike are bristling with Wi-Fi routers, allowing devices to connect to the Internet without the use of Ethernet cables — a feat that was unthinkable 15 years ago and only started to be used widely 10 years ago.
In just a short time, however, we may all be tossing our routers into the same junk pile that collected our coils of CAT5e cable a few years back. That’s because a startup in Estonia has discovered a way to transmit wireless connectivity via light bulbs — at speeds that make today’s best connections look like yesterday’s 14.4 modem.
The company, Velmenni, uses a technology it calls “Li-Fi” to transmit data via light bulbs. In tests, connectivity speeds reached 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), or about 100 times faster than current Wi-Fi technology. In laboratory simulations, speeds as high as 224 Gbps have been predicted. Researchers are hoping that additional testing will help bring these predictions from science fiction to science fact.
Li-Fi works by modulating the intensity of LED light bulbs so that they can be used both to transmit data and to produce visible light. The modulation is too fast to be detected by human eyes, so the light bulb appears to be emitting steady light when in fact it is emitting both visible light and a data stream.
The idea for “Li-Fi,” using light bulbs as wireless routers, was floated by German physicist Harald Haas during a TED Talk in 2011. Research into the technology had begun as early as 2008, with Haas participating in some of the experiments. Recently, Haas’s group announced a partnership with a French company that will release the first wave of Li-Fi technology by the third quarter of 2016.
Invisibility Cloaks: Not Just for Wizards Anymore
Children and adults alike envied Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak, a garment that allows the wearer to move about undetected, when it first appeared in the beloved children’s series. In 2016, however, invisibility will no longer require a trip to Hogwarts. Researchers at the University of California — San Diego (UCSD) have created a cloaking technology that manipulates electromagnetic waves, such as visible light, to make the object beneath appear invisible.
Although several research teams are currently working on cloaking technology, the UCSD team has set itself apart by developing an ultra-light, metal-free cloak that uses relatively abundant and inexpensive materials. The “dielectric metasurface cloak” includes ceramic cylinders embedded in a Teflon substrate.
Because the material can work with only a narrow range of wavelengths at any one time, an object hidden beneath it can currently stay “hidden” only from one viewing attempt at a time. For instance, a cloak that is configured to manipulate radar waves, making the item invisible to radar, would leave the object visible to the naked eye, because it would not be configured to manipulate visible light waves. Nevertheless, the UCSD team is currently in talks with the U.S. armed forces about the potential military applications of the technology.
Since the design also requires less of the cloaking material to hide objects, it also expands the number of ways in which the material can be used. Although the armed forces are currently considering it for the hiding of small objects like unmanned drones, the possibilities — including our very own Invisibility Cloaks — are endless.
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