Posted: April 30, 2021
Most often, optical fibers are used for optical communications, which allow light signals to be transmitted over tens, hundreds or thousands of meters. However, the use of optical fiber cables to transmit light signals does have its disadvantages and limitations. Cabling can be difficult, if not impossible, when the cables have to be routed around walls or through protective glass. In some cases, free-space optical transmission is the only way or the most feasible option to transmit light signals from point A to point B and vice versa to enable bidirectional communications.
A good example of an application where free-space optical transmission is well suited for is the short-range wireless communication in LIDAR cameras. In a typical LIDAR system, an optical transmitter and an optical receiver are mounted on a rotating platform. The transmitter continuously emits a light pattern that gets reflected on the surface of objects, which is later captured by the receiver. The processing of the input of the transmitter and the output of the receiver determines the location of the objects around the LIDAR. An ideal solution to support the communication between the electronics mounted on the rotating platform and the hardware available in the fixed part of the LIDAR system would be to use an optical free-space transceiver on each end.
There are many other industrial use cases that can leverage free-space optical communications, such as links between junctions in a robotic system, data communications between boards, and high galvanic isolation protecting sensitive electronics from high voltage circuitry.
Broadcom Industrial Fiber Products Division (IFPD) has developed a robust VCSEL-based optical wireless transceiver solution that is suitable for a wide range of industrial short-range communications. The AFBR-FS13B25 is Broadcom’s first optical wireless communication (OWC) device that supports up to 1.25 Gb/s of bidirectional serial data communications over free space, thereby enabling wireless (connector-less/cable-less) communications for a wide variety of applications.
Key features of AFBR-FS13B25
- Operation at 850nm
- Laser Class 1
- Temperature range -10°C to 85°C
- Link length range 30mm to 60mm
- Data rate range 125Mb/s to 1.25Gb/s
To capitalize on the growing industrial demand for OWC, Broadcom IFPD is working on extending the features of the AFBR-FS13B25 and expanding product offerings to address various market requirements. Future devices will be targeting extended temperature range, longer link length and higher throughput to enhance existing applications as well as enabling new ones.