Free Space Optical Communication

Background

Free space optical (FSO) communication technology uses light propagating in free space to transmit data for telecommunications or computer networking. It is useful where it is difficult or impossible to connect a fiber, and where radio communications are impractical due to interference or bandwidth limitations. FSO links can be used to quickly restore urban telecommunications after disasters, to provide covert connections in the battlefield, and even to send data between two satellites.

free-space optical communication

Figure 1. Satellite-to-satellite free-space optical communication

The main factor that can influence the ability of an optical communications system to send information through the air is weather. Fog, heavy rain and snow could be severe enough to block the light path and interrupt communications. But some infrared wavelengths are able to penetrate poor weather much better than visible light. Also, if the distances are not too great, systems can be designed with sufficient power to punch through most weather conditions.

Project Description

In this project you will construct a free-space optical link, learn how optical transmitters and receivers work, and how to transfer information using light. You can simulate various atmospheric conditions such as wind, humidity, ambient light, and heat affect the optical power as well as quality of the signal. You can compare performance of LD vs LED, free-space vs fiber optical link, etc.

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