Chinese researchers have found a way to use lightbulbs instead of WiFi to access the internet, according to an Oct. 17, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,
Successful experiments by Chinese scientists have indicated the possibility of the country’s netizens getting online through signals sent by lightbulbs (LiFi), instead of WiFi.
Four computers under a one-watt LED lightbulb may connect to the Internet under the principle that light can be used as a carrier instead of traditional radio frequencies, as in WiFi, said Chi Nan, an information technology professor with Shanghai’s Fudan University, on Thursday [Oct. 17, 2013].
The Oct. 17, 2013 news release on Xinhua News (China’s official press agency), which originated the news item, describes the possibilities of ‘LiFi’,
A lightbulb with embedded microchips can produce data rates as fast as 150 megabits per second, which is speedier than the average broadband connection in China, said Chi, who leads a LiFi research team including scientists from the Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
With LiFi cost-effective as well as efficient, netizens should be excited to view 10 sample LiFi kits that will be on display at the China International Industry Fair that will kick off on Nov. 5  in Shanghai.
The current wireless signal transmission equipment is expensive and low in efficiency, said Chi.
“As for cell phones, millions of base stations have been established around the world to strengthen the signal but most of the energy is consumed on their cooling systems,” she explained. “The energy utilization rate is only 5 percent.”
Compared with base stations, the number of lightbulbs that can be used is practically limitless. Meanwhile, Chinese people are replacing the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs with LED lightbulbs at a fast pace.
“Wherever there is an LED lightbulb, there is an Internet signal,” said Chi. “Turn off the light and there is no signal.”
However, there is still a long way to go to make LiFi a commercial success.
“If the light is blocked, then the signal will be cut off,” said Chi.
More importantly, according to the scientist, the development of a series of key related pieces of technology, including light communication controls as well as microchip design and manufacturing, is still in an experimental period.
The term LiFi was coined by Harald Haas from the University of Edinburgh in the UK and refers to a type of visible light communication technology that delivers a networked, mobile, high-speed communication solution in a similar manner as WiFi.
I was not able to find any academic papers about Chi’s work with LiFi but there is her academic page here. As for the fair where Chi’s work will be displayed. CIIF 2013 – The 15th China International Industry Fair 2013 is being held in Shanghai from Nov. 5 – 9, 2013.