Fast data transfer with OLEDs

Tuesday, 04 August, 2020

Fast data transfer with OLEDs

An international research team has developed a visible light communication (VLC) set-up, capable of a data rate of 2.2 Mbps, by employing a new type of organic light-emitting diode (OLED, pictured).

The project is a collaboration between Newcastle University, University College London, the London Centre for Nanotechnology, the Institute of Organic Chemistry at the Polish Academy of Sciences and Italy’s Institute for the Study of Nanostructured Materials – Research National Council (CNR-ISMN). It has been published in the journal Light: Science & Applications.

The demand for faster data transmission speeds is driving the popularity of light-emitting devices in VLC systems. LEDs have multiple applications and are used in lighting systems, mobile phones and TV displays. While OLEDs don’t offer the same speed as inorganic LEDs and laser diodes do, they are cheaper to produce, recyclable and more sustainable.

Dr Paul Haigh, from Newcastle University’s Intelligent Sensing and Communications Group, was part of the research team. He led the development of a real-time transmission of signals that transmit as quickly as possible. He achieved this by using information modulation formats developed in-house, achieving approximately 2.2 Mbps.

“Our team developed highly efficient long wavelength (far-red/near-infrared) polymer LEDs free of heavy metals, which has been a longstanding research challenge in the organic optoelectronics community,” Dr Haigh said. “Achieving such high data rates opens up opportunities for the integration of portable, wearable or implantable organic biosensors into visible/nearly (in)visible light communication links.”

By extending the OLED’s spectral range to 700–1000 nm, the team successfully expanded the bandwidth and achieved what is claimed to be the fastest-ever data speed recorded in real time for solution-based OLEDs — high enough to support an indoor point-to-point link, with a view of IoT applications. The researchers highlighted the possibility of achieving such data rates without computationally complex and power-demanding equalisers.

Together with the absence of toxic heavy metals in the active layer of the OLEDs, the new VLC set-up is promising for the integration of portable, wearable or implantable organic biosensors. In the future the technology may be applied in many different areas, ranging from individual communication-enabled pixels in display technologies right through to under- or through-skin biosensing for active health monitoring and faster care linkage.

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