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An LED can be used as a photodiode used for light detection as well as emission.

This capability has been

demonstrated and used in a variety of applications including ambient light detection and bidirectional

communications.[11][12] This implementation of LEDs is important because functionality can be added to designs with

only minor modifications, usually at little or no cost.[11]

An LED is simply a diode that has been doped specifically for efficient light emission and has been packaged in a

transparent case. Therefore, if inserted into a circuit in the same way as a photodiode, which is essentially the

same thing, the LED will perform the same function. As a photodiode, it is sensitive to wavelengths equal to or

shorter than the predominant wavelength it emits. For example, a green LED will be sensitive to blue light and to

some green light, but not to yellow or red light. Additionally, the LED can be multiplexed in such a circuit, such that

it can be used for both light emission and sensing at different times.[11]

Several applications for this technology have been suggested and/or implemented, ranging from use as simple

ambient light sensors to full bidirectional communications using a single LED. Most of these applications benefit

from this technology because of the cost reduction of using the same component for multiple functions.

[edit]Ambient light sensors

LEDs have been used as ambient light sensors. For example, a remote control keypad backlight would be turned

on by capacitive proximity sensors only in the absence of ambient light. The LED used for the backlight was also

used as the ambient light sensor. This resulted in increased functionality for no increase in manufacturing costs.[11]

[edit]Bidirectional communications

LEDs can be used as both emitters and detectors of light, which means that a device having only a single LED can

be used to achieve bidirectional communications with another device meeting these requirements. Using this

technology, any of the ubiquitous LEDs connected to household appliances, computers and other electronic

devices can be used as a bidirectional communications port.[11]

One application for bidirectional communication with a single LED is fiber optic communications. In typical plastic

optical fiber communications, a single optical fiber is used only for communication inone direction. This is because

a single LED transmitter is placed at one end of the fiber, and a photodiode receiver is placed at the other end.

Thus, two fibers are needed for bidirectional communication. However, if a single LED is placed at each end of a

fiber, then the optical fiber can carry information in both directions using half the number of components as a

typical system. This reduces system weight, cost and complexity.[12]

Another application of this use of LEDs is a proposed alternative to RFID tags called the iDropper, developed

by Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories in 2003. The iDropper is a small device that consists of a

microcontroller, a battery, an LED, and a single push-button. The device records or transmits a small amount of

data upon command from the user. Compared to RFID tags, the iDropper is more secure because the user must

press a button to reveal personal information, and is similar in cost.[11]


One major limitation of this scheme is the fact that a single LED can only operate as a half-duplex transceiver. A

single LED can either transmit or receive information at one time, not both simultaneously. A simple way to put this

is that an LED transceiver behaves like a walkie-talkie, in contrast to a telephone. This means that it takes a

considerable time for two devices to "talk" to each other.[12]