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Tuesday January 31, 2023

Could humans be used as antennas for 6G wireless technology?

Even though global adoption of 5G wireless technology is just getting started, a recent study is already projecting development of 6G

By Web Desk
January 06, 2023
The illustration shows human eye projecting rays and lines of code.— Pixabay
The illustration shows human eye projecting rays and lines of code.— Pixabay

Even though the global adoption of 5G wireless technology is just getting started, a recent study is already projecting the development of 6G.

Unlike earlier technology, according to researchers from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, 6G may eventually employ people as antennae.

Particularly, Visible Light Communication (VLC), which functions as a wireless substitute for fibreoptics, may be useful for 6G telecommunications. Currently, fibreoptics transfer data on light flashes using exceedingly thin glass or plastic strands. These wires are incredibly tiny and also incredibly delicate.

The UMass Amherst team claims to have developed a creative, low-cost method of capturing VLC waste energy that makes use of the body as an antenna. Wearable electronics and possibly larger electronics can be powered by their technology, which recycles waste energy.

“VLC is quite simple and interesting,” said Jie Xiong, professor of information and computer sciences at UMass Amherst, in a university release. “Instead of using radio signals to send information wirelessly, it uses the light from LEDs that can turn on and off, up to one million times per second.”

The fact that the infrastructure to use VLC already exists is what makes it so enticing for the future of wireless technologies. Our houses, cars, streetlights, and businesses are all lit by LED bulbs as a result of current technology and smart devices, and they may also be transferring data.

“Anything with a camera, like our smartphones, tablets or laptops, could be the receiver,” Xiong explained.

The team noted that because LEDs emit "side-channel RF signals" (or radio waves), VLC systems suffer from a considerable "leakage" of energy. If researchers can capture this RF energy, they can use it.

They created an antenna out of coils of copper wire to capture RF leaks in order to make this a reality. The major question that arises next is what kind of object will best gather this energy.

Researchers played around with various wire thicknesses and surfaces. First author Minhao Cui attempted wrapping the coil around a human body after laying it against plastic, cardboard, wood, and steel as well as phones and other digital gadgets that were turned on and off.

According to the results, individuals are the most effective media for enhancing the coil's capacity to absorb RF energy. Up to ten times as much energy was collected when the coil was attached to a person than when it was used alone.

These findings inspired the researchers to develop the "Bracelet+," a low-cost wearable that may be worn on the upper forearm. Although a bracelet seems to be the most effective for gathering power, the study's authors remarked that it can be modified to act as a ring, belt, anklet, or necklace.

“The design is cheap—less than fifty cents,” the study authors noted. “But Bracelet+ can reach up to micro-watts, enough to support many sensors such as on-body health monitoring sensors that require little power to work owing to their low sampling frequency and long sleep-mode duration.”

“Ultimately, we want to be able to harvest waste energy from all sorts of sources in order to power future technology,” Xiong concluded