A-Z Guide to Free Space Optics: Everything You Need to Know in 2024

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Free Space Optics (FSO) is an advanced optical communication technology that leverages light, particularly light from lasers, to transmit data. Below we delve into the details of FSO and why it forms the basis of Li-Fi technology powered by Oledcomm.

The Basics of Free Space Optics

  • What Is FSO?

    Free Space Optics (FSO) is a subdivision of optic light communication in wireless technologies. It uses lasers and LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) in order to send data and information through beams of light. Propagating the wireless connection generated at a wireless access point, thus, does not rely on the use of physical cables and hardware.

  • FSO Meaning and Key Concepts

    Free-space optical communication operates on its namesake - the free space between the sender and receiver of the LiFi internet connection. This is normally hardware, like an access point and a Li-Fi receiving, plug-and-play dongle. FSO technology runs on Line of Sight communication, can achieve incredibly high data rates, and possesses an immunity to electromagnetic interference. Interruptions in connection are nearly eliminated with FSO, meaning it is a healthy, reliably fast, and secure wireless connection.

Improved Connectivity in Sensitive Areas

Technical Aspects of Free Space Optical Communication Technology

  • How FSO works.

    A pulsating LED bulb sends wireless signals to a receiving device. FSO as a form of optical wireless communication has a range that typically varies from a few hundred meters to several kilometers. Factors such as atmospheric conditions, signal strength, and alignment accuracy are all factors that affect the transmission distance and effectiveness.

  • Components involved in FSO systems.

    There are three major components in Free Space communication systems:

    • Transmitter: By converting electrical signals into optical signals using a laser or LED light source, the transmitter generates information in the form of a modulated light beam that is then directed toward the…

    • Receiver: Using photodetectors or photodiodes within the hardware, the receiver captures the incoming light signals and converts them back into electrical signals that have passed through the…

    • Optical Path: The free space through which light beams carrying information travel. Keeping this line free of physical obstructions ensures optimal connectivity.

  • Specifics of using lasers in Free Space Optics

    Free Space laser communication leverages the poignant and highly directional properties of laser light to establish reliable communication links. The choice of laser wavelength is a delicate detail when dealing with FSO systems. Common wavelengths used include 850 nm, 1310 nm, and 1550 nm. Each wavelength has its advantages:

    850 nm 1310 nm and 1550 nm
    Often used in indoor or campus networks as this wavelength is suitable for shorter distances. These wavelengths are less affected by atmospheric absorption and scattering, making them ideal for longer distances and outdoor applications.
  • Advantages of laser-based communication.

    The narrow beam uniquely provided by a laser for optical wireless communication can support extremely high data transmission rates and exhibit low divergence, achieving spot-on directionality and clarity of signal.

Li-Fi and FSO: How Li-Fi utilizes Free Space Optics principles.

Oledcomm designed a LiFi technology that incorporates principles of Free Space Optics to provide high-speed, secure, wireless data communication using light-emitting diodes (LEDs). LiFi, as an alternative to WiFi, was developed as a wireless solution that does not face the same speed, reliability, and health problems as traditional WiFi and radio frequency connectivity.Below, we compare some of the core principles of Li-Fi which originate in FSO:

FSO Li-Fi
Line of Sight Communication
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Modulation Techniques Encodes data onto laser beams Uses intensity modulation of LED light to transmit data
High Data Transmission Rates Gigabit speeds over long distances High speeds in shorter, confined spaces rooms/buildings
Receiver Technology Employs photodetectors to decode laser light signals Uses photodiodes or photodetectors to receive modulated light from LEDs and convert it back to electrical signals.

Importance of Line of Sight in Optical Wireless Communications.

Because free space optical communication is a subset of optical communication technology that uses light propagation in free space to transmit data wirelessly, it requires a free space devoid of physical obstructions in order to operate properly. In contrast to transmission using physical hardware such as optical fiber communication cables, free-space optics utilizes mediums such as air, outer space, or a vacuum. The high range that the light signals carrying information can travel is all dependent on maintaining the line of sight in optical wireless communication.

Best practices for maintaining FSO systems

FSO systems are incredibly efficient, effective, and healthy, and benefit greatly from routine maintenance. Practices that can help one ensure the longevity of an FSO system include:

  • Keep the equipment clean: Regular dusting and cleaning with appropriate materials helps maintain clear optical paths free of dust, dirt, and other contaminants. If the optical surfaces of FSO equipment are obstructed, it can disrupt the connection.

  • Check if the Equipment is Aligned: FSO systems only operate if the alignment of the transmitter and receiver units is correct.

  • Check the Weather: While free space laser communication can operate in various weather conditions, heavy fog, rain, or snow can attenuate the signal as it acts as a physical barrier that can disrupt the line of sight connection.

  • Keep the Software Up to Date: Like with any evolving technology, FSO has regular performance enhancements and security features. Upkeeping the system’s software helps protect the system from security, speed, and connection vulnerabilities.

Benefits and Applications of Free Space Optics

FSO has been known for being incredibly cost-effective in comparison to fiber optics. Urban areas have benefitted from this shift from hardware to line of sight communication, as neighborhoods no longer have to experience construction and dig sites in order to place cables or connections.

Free space optics can achieve extremely high data rates, comparable to those of fiber optics, while maintaining a secure connection that is streamlined, fierce, and difficult to intercept. This makes it suitable for bandwidth-intensive applications like streaming high-definition video, real-time data transfer, and large-scale data center connectivity. Its extreme security makes it applicable in a wide range of working sectors, such as military, governmental, aerospace, and underwater scenarios. A very versatile technology and an inspiration to Li-Fi, FSO will be found at the forerunning position of the wireless connectivity discourse for long to come.

Free space optics (FSO) simply refers to a subdivision of optic light communication that utilizes lasers and LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) in order to send data and information through beams of light.

The frequency range is determined by the wavelength of the light used for data transmission, and FSO typically uses two depending on the distance the signal needs to travel: 850 nm, and between 1310 nm and 1550 nm.

Fiber optics require physical cables and hardware in order to transmit signals. Free space optics relies on line of sight and “free space” in the atmosphere, unobstructed by physical barriers, to transmit data.

FSO is one of the fastest and more secure optical wireless transmission technologies in use today. The visible light spectrum is not at risk of interception like traditional radio wave frequencies, so by utilizing directionally precise lasers and modulated light, FSO is extremely advantageous when it comes to security.

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