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The Physics behind wifi

- a real life application of waves and wave motion Luis Montesinos Medina - 30 de marzo de 2016

THE PHYSICS BEHIND WIFI - LUIS MONTESINOS

Introduction

If you have been in an airport, coffee shop or hotel recently, there is a huge chance
that you have been right in the middle of a wireless connection. Also called WiFi or 802.11
networking, it influences in our daily life in such a way that most of the technological
devices depend on it. You are probably using wifi when you send text messages from your
phone. You use wifi whenever you want to watch that Youtube video or a film on your
tablet. Nowadays, wifi is more than necessary.
We all know what it is, some of its common uses but how does it work? How does
data get transferred from one place to another without any wire of physical connection?
Physics can answer this questions.

Definition of WiFi
Wi-Fi is a wireless networking technology that allows computers and
other devices to communicate over a wireless signal or radio wave

But before we get to fully understand this definition, we should go over some
concepts already covered in the class in Chapter 16: Waves and Wave Motion

THE PHYSICS BEHIND WIFI - LUIS MONTESINOS

SOME THINGS TO REMEMBER :


-

WAVES are a means of transferring energy from one place to another.


A traveling wave, either mechanical or electromagnetic, is a disturbance that travels out
from the source producing it, transferring energy from the source to other places
throughout it passes.
The bouncing of waves off an obstacle in their path is called reflection.

There are different kinds of waves: water waves, waves on a rope or radio waves. WiFi
works using these last ones.

Radio waves
A radio wave is an electromagnetic wave propagated by an antenna. Radio waves
have different frequencies, and by using a radio receiver to a specific frequency you can
pick up a specific signal.
Radio waves transmit music, conversations, pictures and data invisibly through the
air, often over millions of miles it happens everyday in a thousand of different ways!
When it comes to Wifi, it is the mean through which data is transferred to the
different devices.

THE PHYSICS BEHIND WIFI - LUIS MONTESINOS

WiFi Circuit
In order to have a complete understanding of how waves are applied in wireless
systems, we are going to go through the main steps of a circuit itself. A resumed
explanation would be:
1. A computer's wireless adapter translates data into a radio signal and transmits it
using an antenna.
2. A wireless router receives the signal and decodes it. The router sends the
information to the Internet using a physical, wired Ethernet connection.
This also works backwards, being the computer the receiver of the internet data. It all
depends on wether the consumer wants to upload content to the net or get content from it.

physical
connection
(wired)

wireless
router
radio signal>>>decoded
information
WAVES

antenna

Computer / Device
data>>>radio signal

THE PHYSICS BEHIND WIFI - LUIS MONTESINOS

Radio waves are influenced by


ENVIRONMENT/MULTIPATH PROPAGATION
Different radio frequencies behave differently in different environments. The higher
the frequency, the more easily radio waves are absorbed or reflected by things like
ordinary building materials and vegetation.Visible light demonstrates the principle nicely
A sheet of typing paper will let some light through, but a thick piece of plywood will
block it entirely. Radio waves behave in a similar fashion. They have much better
penetration than visible light, therefore it would take much more than plywood to stop
the wave.

FREQUENCIES
Frequency and multipath propagation were the only concerns, low frequencies and
would seem to confer great advantages. But as frequency drops, so does bandwidth (data
transfer rate ).
As an extreme example, the Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) communications
systems developed by the US and Russian navies can reach submarines under several
hundred feet of water. But, due to the very low frequency employed, the systems can only
transfer data at a rate of a few characters per minute. Their primary use is to ask the subs
to rise to a more shallow depth and employ some faster means of communication.

THE PHYSICS BEHIND WIFI - LUIS MONTESINOS

THE PHYSICS BEHIND WIFI - LUIS MONTESINOS