6G could use humans as antennas
We don’t yet know exactly how 6G wireless technology is going to work. But researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst believe that using humans as antennas to power 6G may be the most viable way to get additional power that would otherwise go to waste.
In the ever-present effort to speed up the exchange of information, scientists have already begun to investigate Visible Light Communication (VLC), basically a wireless version of fiber optics, which uses flashes of light to transmit information. The addition of VLC to 6G encouraged the UMass Amherst team to dig even deeper.
First, some background on 6G. To refresh your memory, 5G, considered the fifth and latest generation of cellular broadband networks, is still in its infancy. True 5G networks operate on millimeter wave frequencies between 30 and 300 gigahertz, which are 10 to 100 times higher than previous 4G cellular networks. (However, some mobile providers cheat by claiming the higher end of the 4G spectrum as 5G.)
The definition of these cell generations is carried out by a world association known as 3GPP. Given the history of the never-ending march of technology, it is inevitable that 5G will be replaced by a new network in the future. What is not entirely clear is what 6G will be.
Meanwhile, in the new study, UMass Amherst scientists discovered that humans can play a crucial role in enhancing the effectiveness of the VLC by using their bodies as coiled copper carriers to capture residual energy from the VLC. The study’s lead author, Jie Xiong, professor of Information Sciences and Computing at UMass Amherst, Explain:
“VLC is quite simple and interesting. Instead of using radio signals to send information wirelessly, it uses light from LEDs that can flash on and off up to a million times per second.”
The LED bulbs can then transmit data, and “anything with a camera, like our smartphones, tablets or laptops, could be the receiver,” Xiong says.
The drawback of VLC is the high rate of “leakage” of energy that occurs when emitting side channel radio wave signals. The researchers believe that if they can harvest the wasted radio frequency (RF) energy, they can put it to good use powering small electronic devices.
After experimenting with wires, coils and backgrounds, scientists realized that the human body offers the best means – up to 10 times better than any other environment tested – for amplifying a copper coil’s ability to pick up filtered RF energy. . Next, they built the Bracelet+, a cheap contraption worn on the forearm, but can be attached to a ring, belt, or necklace, to collect lost energy. According to the team, Bracelet+’s copper coils can reach microwatts, enough to power body-worn health-monitoring sensors that require little power to operate.
The coupling of copper coils with VLC systems uses humans as antennas to power the technology they use.
“Ultimately,” says Xiong, “we want to be able to harvest waste energy from all sorts of sources to power future technology.”