Adaptive receiver for optical wireless communication

A hybrid optical wireless receiver that is capable of transitioning from sensitivity levels of classical to the near-quantum regime.

An adaptive optical wireless communication (OWC) receiver combining the near-quantum sensitivity of a single photon avalanche diode (SPAD) array and the classical operating performance of a linear photodiode (LPD). The device enables OWC with a single receiver in scenarios requiring a highly extended dynamic range.


  • Wireless backhaul
  • Visible light communication
  • Underwater optical communication

Development Status

  • Prototype in development
IP Status
  • UK priority patent application

Commercial Offerings

  • Licensing and/or co-development


With limitations in radio frequency spectrum and technologies increasingly representing a bottleneck for the expansion of wireless communication networks, OWC has attracted significant interest due to its potential advantages such as high data rate, and licence-free spectrum – both in terms of outdoor Free Space Optics (FSO) and indoor Visible Light Communication (VLC). The nature of OWC means that signals may vary significantly including very low levels which would be below the threshold of conventional optical receivers (e.g. due to adverse weather conditions in FSO or blockage/dimming in VLC). There remains an unmet need for effective OWC receivers which can operate consistently across such an extended dynamic range.


Edinburgh researchers have developed a hybrid OWC receiver that is capable of transitioning from sensitivity levels of classical (e.g., thousand photons per bit) to near-quantum regimes (e.g., ten photons per bit). This is achieved by combining the capabilities of an array of single-photon avalanche photodiodes (SPADs) and conventional photodetectors operating in linear mode (LPD), e.g., pin diode. Notably, the technology incorporates an approach to overcome the inherent operating gap that exists between SPAD array detectors and LPDs in high-speed applications, resulting in a system that provides reliable and smooth operation over a very large dynamic range of incident light intensity.


  • Adaptive sensitivity spanning a large dynamic range
  • Effective for high-speed optical communication
  • Continuous operation under low and variable signal levels

Please note, the header image is purely illustrative. Source: Shaxiaozi via GettyImages

Quote: TEC1104276

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Dr Angus Stewart-Liddon

Technology Transfer Manager
School of Engineering
School of Physics