Brown University researchers claim that terahertz frequency data links can "bounce" around a room without dropping too much data, and have the potential to carry many times more data than current networks.
This could help the current issue in today's cellular networks and WiFi systems, which rely on microwave links to carry data, and struggle against the growing demand for more bandwidth than microwave communications can handle.
The researchers at the University therefore decided to attempt transmitting data on higher-frequency terahertz waves, which have as much as 100 times the data-carrying capacity of microwaves, so conducted an experiment to find out how feasible it is.
At first, the researchers found that because terahertz communication technology is in its infancy, there's a lot of basic research yet to be done and, therefore, plenty of challenges to overcome.
For example, they said it's been assumed that terahertz links would require a direct line of sight between transmitter and receiver, but unlike microwaves, terahertz waves are entirely blocked by most solid objects.
The assumption has always been that it's not possible to bounce a terahertz beam around - for example, between walls - to find a clear path around an object.
However, the scientists' new research indicates that non-line-of-site terahertz data links are possible because the waves can be bounced off of walls without losing too much data.
"I think it's fair to say that most people in the terahertz field would tell you that there would be too much power loss on those bounces, and so non-line-of-sight links are not going to be feasible in terahertz," said Brown University's School of Engineering professor, Daniel Mittleman.
"But our work indicates that the loss is actually quite tolerable in some cases - quite a bit less than many people would have thought."
For the study, Mittleman and his colleagues bounced terahertz waves at four different frequencies off of a variety of objects, such as mirrors, metal doors, cinderblock walls and others, then measured the bit-error-rate of the data on the wave after the bounces. They showed that acceptable bit-error-rates were achievable with modest increases in signal power.
In one experiment, the researchers bounced a beam off of two walls, enabling a successful link when transmitter and receiver were around a corner from each other, with no direct line-of-sight whatsoever.
The researchers claim that this is a promising finding that could support the idea of terahertz local-area networks.
"Imagine a wireless network," Mittleman explained, "where someone's computer is connected to a terahertz router and there's direct line-of-sight between the two, but then someone walks in between and blocks the beam. If you can't find an alternative path, that link will be shut down."
He continued: "What we show is that you might still be able to maintain the link by searching for a new path that could involve bouncing off a wall somewhere.
"There are technologies today that can do that kind of path-finding for lower frequencies and there's no reason they can't be developed for terahertz."
Mittleman added that these experiments into the kinds of basic studies on the nature of terahertz data transmission are critical for understanding how to design the network architecture for future terahertz data systems.
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