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  • WiFi Anywhere: Solar-powered Hot Spots
Jan 2009
Solar panels are popping up everywhere and powering all kinds of things: They provide energy for animal detection systems in several states in the US and in Europe, and they run traffic information signs, informing motorists of construction or of an accident ahead. A new use for photovoltaic panels now is to power wireless communications systems.
Photovoltaic panels provide power to wireless mesh repeaters, making almost anywhere a WiFi hot spot. (Photo courtesy Meraki Solar)
What began as an idea to bring wireless communications to underdeveloped areas of the world has turned into a solar-powered WiFi unit for anyone. The technology was developed as a PhD research project on wireless mesh technology at MIT in Cambridge.

Sanjit Biswas and John Bicket, leaders on the MIT research project, both jumped from the East to the West Coast to found Meraki Solar in San Francisco.

The company recently began shipping a unit that provides wireless coverage without having to connect to the electrical grid. The unit allows users to monitor and configure the solar collector remotely, and it comes with its own lithium iron phosphate battery for storing the solar energy. The solar panel is available in 20- or 40-W versions and, to save energy, uses LEDs for signal strength and power indicator lights.

Anne L. Fischer, Photonics Spectra senior editor

See also: Putting Solar to the Test

The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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