Nav: Home

The first laser radio transmitter

April 25, 2019

You've never heard Dean Martin like this.

Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences transmitted a recording of Martin's classic "Volare" wirelessly via a semiconductor laser -- the first time a laser has been used as a radio frequency transmitter.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers demonstrated a laser that can emit microwaves wirelessly, modulate them, and receive external radio frequency signals.

"The research opens the door to new types of hybrid electronic-photonic devices and is the first step toward ultra-high-speed Wi-Fi," said Federico Capasso, the Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering, at SEAS and senior author of the study.

This research builds on previous work from the Capasso Lab. In 2017, the researchers discovered that an infrared frequency comb in a quantum cascade laser could be used to generate terahertz frequencies, the submillimeter wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that could move data hundreds of times faster than today's wireless platforms. In 2018, the team found that quantum cascade laser frequency combs could also act as integrated transmitters or receivers to efficiently encode information.

Now, the researchers have figured out a way to extract and transmit wireless signals from laser frequency combs.

Unlike conventional lasers, which emit a single frequency of light, laser frequency combs emit multiple frequencies simultaneously, evenly spaced to resemble the teeth of a comb. In 2018, the researchers discovered that inside the laser, the different frequencies of light beat together to generate microwave radiation. The light inside the cavity of the laser caused electrons to oscillate at microwave frequencies -- which are within the communications spectrum.

"If you want to use this device for Wi-Fi, you need to be able to put useful information in the microwave signals and extract that information from the device," said Marco Piccardo, a postdoctoral fellow at SEAS and first author of the paper.

The first thing the new device needed to transmit microwave signals was an antenna. So, the researchers etched a gap into the top electrode of the device, creating a dipole antenna (like the rabbit ears on the top of an old TV). Next, they modulated the frequency comb to encode information on the microwave radiation created by the beating light of the comb. Then, using the antenna, the microwaves are radiated out from the device, containing the encoded information. The radio signal is received by a horn antenna, filtered and sent to a computer.

The researchers also demonstrated that the laser radio could receive signals. The team was able to remotely control the behavior of the laser using microwave signals from another device.

"This all-in-one, integrated device holds great promise for wireless communication," said Piccardo. "While the dream of terahertz wireless communication is still a ways away, this research provides a clear roadmap showing how to get there."

The Harvard Office of Technology Development has protected the intellectual property relating to this project and is exploring commercialization opportunities.
-end-
This research was co-authored by Michele Tamagnone, Benedikt Schwarz, Paul Chevalier, Noah A. Rubin, Yongrui Wang, Christine A. Wang, Michael K. Connors, Daniel McNulty and Alexey Belyanin. It was supported in part by the National Science Foundation.

Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Related Engineering Articles:

Engineering the meniscus
Damage to the meniscus is common, but there remains an unmet need for improved restorative therapies that can overcome poor healing in the avascular regions.
Artificially engineering the intestine
Short bowel syndrome is a debilitating condition with few treatment options, and these treatments have limited efficacy.
Reverse engineering the fireworks of life
An interdisciplinary team of Princeton researchers has successfully reverse engineered the components and sequence of events that lead to microtubule branching.
New method for engineering metabolic pathways
Two approaches provide a faster way to create enzymes and analyze their reactions, leading to the design of more complex molecules.
Engineering for high-speed devices
A research team from the University of Delaware has developed cutting-edge technology for photonics devices that could enable faster communications between phones and computers.
Breakthrough in blood vessel engineering
Growing functional blood vessel networks is no easy task. Previously, other groups have made networks that span millimeters in size.
Next-gen batteries possible with new engineering approach
Dramatically longer-lasting, faster-charging and safer lithium metal batteries may be possible, according to Penn State research, recently published in Nature Energy.
What can snakes teach us about engineering friction?
If you want to know how to make a sneaker with better traction, just ask a snake.
Engineering a plastic-eating enzyme
Scientists have engineered an enzyme which can digest some of our most commonly polluting plastics, providing a potential solution to one of the world's biggest environmental problems.
A new way to do metabolic engineering
University of Illinois researchers have created a novel metabolic engineering method that combines transcriptional activation, transcriptional interference, and gene deletion, and executes them simultaneously, making the process faster and easier.
More Engineering News and Engineering Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.