The Well-Known WLAN Has a Competitor: Beyond 5G Light Communications.

Dr. Hendra Kesuma, PhD, commenced working in Space Industries in the early 2010s and is currently serving as Research and Development Manager at AES Aircraft Elektro/Elektronik System GmbH. He is working closely with Airbus and University of Bremen. His research has focused upon developing cutting edge space technologies for European Aerospace Industries. Dr. Kesuma also founded Bremen Dynamics in 2016 at University Bremen Campus and is the co-author of the book, “Wireless Sensor Systems for Extreme environments”.

By Maria Anna van Driel,

The history of Visible Light Communication (VLC) goes back to Romans when polish metallic plates were used to reflect sunlight and convey signals over a long distance. In 1753 an anonymous author wrote about a communication devise what would let your words magically appear on a piece of paper thousands of miles away; the telegraph. In 1794, Claude Chappe developed a semaphore system consisting of a series of towers equipped with mounted arms to transmit information. Until 1855 this form of communication underwent an intensive evolution. The Pony Express became about as useful as mobile pager would be today. But scientific progress did not came to a halt, on the contrary, long distance communication got more and more improved.

It was on February 19, 1880, when the Scottish-born scientist Alexander Graham Bell invented the photo-phone. This, for its time, anticipatory technological device could transmit speech on modulated sunlight over several hundred meters. It was the idea of Graham Bell what turned all known communication up-side-down and even led to fibre optic communication. Then, in 1935, the EPR-paradox was presented by physicists Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen. But it wasn’t until 2003 before the term VLC was coined first by Nakagawa Laboratory at Keio University, Japan.

Nowadays, getting information from one place to another is not a far cry compared to the days of the Pony Express. WLAN is a familiar thing and almost everywhere in the world. But, as with all ‘new’ inventions, there is a limit in the range with this well-known way in transmitting data. Some buildings, or places, do not allow data to be transmitted wirelessly everywhere due to its materials present or altitude when looking at traveling by airplanes.

Luckily due to the increasing interest of plausible new opportunities in VLC, researchers have found a way to realize this jaw-dropping form of high speed wireless communication by copying natural light and narrowing its waves. Expect for the data transmitting, what provides us to opportunity to read our emails, set up a Skype call or Wikipedia articles; there is another variant of VLC. This is where Dr. Hendra Kesuma comes in.

Dr. Hendra Kesuma has acquired patents in areas such as protection against space radiation, cryogenic propellant tank, thermoelectric generator, wireless communication and energy transfer, and chip architecture with which a number of projects have been started for improving the European space industry.

Dr. Kesuma, 42, is an electrical engineer and is currently serving as Research and Development Manager at AES Aircraft Elektro/Elektronik System GmbH and is working closely with Airbus and University of Bremen to create new solution for European Aerospace Industries. Three years ago, he began to untangle the long-standing puzzle of how to provide a healthy food supply for deep space missions. He and his colleagues have developed a low power and protracted way form of Visible Light Communication with beyond 5G capability what let plants grow in zero gravity and devices communicate with each other.

Dr. Kesuma’s work began in the realm of pure engineering, but unlike most engineering advances, which might find a practical use after decades, his work is already being applied by physicists. In particular, extreme high speed visible, and infrared, light communication in combination with LED bulbs as energy source for growing plants in space. 

“It is very expensive for humans to work on experiments for plants to grow in a space station and so we came up with an idea of using light what provides plants to create their own photosynthesis. These plants are then a sustainable food supply for deep space missions,” Dr. Kesuma explains during an interview at Space Tech Expo 2019 in Bremen, Germany. 

“During a 2 years experiment at Airbus in Columbus (ISS-module) Bremen, we have used white and infra red LED light to create regularly repeated sequence of an artificial day and night to let the plants grow but we had to keep out the insects and any bacterium’s in order to allow the plants generate their own CO2 and oxygen,” Dr. Kesuma added.

So far, so strange, but undoubtedly real! But how is it possible to transmit so much data only through light signals and, in the future, communicate faster than 5G communication? Dr. Kesuma and his colleagues have developed a very interesting research approach in an internet communication from the lamps hanging at the ceiling for devices to receive and transmit signals whereby the current highest speed with infra red LED is reaching 1Gbits per second.

“The advantages of this system compare with Wi-Fi is that, if we have one Wi-Fi with bandwidth of 1Gbits per second seconds and if we have 100 users, it means per user, it just get 10 Mbits per second,” Dr. Kesuma said.

Indeed, we are talking about the possibilities and exciting consequences of the property called communication with quantum entanglement. This technology shall be suitable for a zero delay in communication between Earth and other planets and/or moons.

A two-year experiment, conducted at Airbus in Columbus (ISS-module) Bremen, shows how the plants grow on a soil with a low variety of fungi.

The transmission principle of visible light communication is relatively simple: a high-power LED is switched on and off very quickly using a modulator. These light impulses all happens too fast for the human eye to notice but are captured by a photodiode in the receiver device (a laptop, tablet computer or cell-phone) and converted into a string of electrical zero’s and ones – in other words, the language of computers.

“The VLC Beyond 5G technology, which I labeled as so because 6G standard is still in progress, allows the LED light to provide the communication between devices through its camera and sensors so they can use the cloud computing in order to deal with automated farming in an international space station or future space garden as an orbiting capsule,” Dr. Kesuma said.

“This technology, Dr. Kesuma proceeds, is also suitable for hospitals and aircrafts because it does not pose electromagnetic radiation. Beside of that it is also very reliable to provide high speed communication though the light bulbs on the warehouse ceiling to control autonomous industrial robots. The reliability and the speed of the wireless communication make it possible to have computation done in the server rather than in individual robot. Hence each robot needs less computational power and can be coordinated simultaneously from the server.”

And so, after researching it for years, scientists are extremely close to launch a new technology in Visible Light Communication for devices to communicate with each other and for us to surf the web by using light. This makes commercially available LEDs a viable alternative to conventional wireless network access in situations where radio communication is not desired, or to give people relief from electromagnetic rays and electric smog.

For more information on Dr. Hendra Kesuma and his research

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