Authors of a new study say human beings wearing special copper-coiled bracelets could be used as part of an electromagnetic radiation antenna system to power 6G. Critics say the technology could be harmful to your health.
Human beings could be used as part of an electromagnetic radiation (EMR) antenna system by wearing a special copper-coiled bracelet, according to a team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands.
The researchers said they developed a low-cost way to “harvest” the radiofrequency (RF) radiation that gets “leaked” during visible light communication (VLC) — a technology they said is likely to be used in the “coming 6G networks.”
But some critics allege that using human beings as RF antennas for 6G is disrespectful to the human body and may have unknown health implications.
“I am diametrically opposed to this type of work, especially given the paucity of medical research on using the human body as an RF antenna,” said Brian Hooker, Ph.D., P.E., Children’s Health Defense (CHD) chief scientific officer and professor of biology at Simpson University.
‘LiFi’ can ‘enable new pervasive wireless systems’ for Internet of Things
The researchers — including Jie Xiong, Ph.D., an associate professor of information and computer sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Qing Wang, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Embedded Systems Group in the Department of Software Technology at TU Delft, The Netherlands — are proponents of VLC, or “LiFi” as it is sometimes called, which uses light to transmit data.
VLC works by turning LED lights on and off at a very high speed invisible to the human eye.
Like WiFi, VLC is wireless — but instead of using a router and RF waves to transmit data, VLC uses LED bulbs and light signals to send and receive information.
During VLC, RF radiation is “leaked” into the ambient environment, allowing it to be “harvested” and used to power small devices, the researchers said.
The team designed an electrical system called “Bracelet+” whereby a human wearing a bracelet containing a copper coil could “collect” the RF radiation generated during VLC.
The researchers said they were able to harvest microwatts of power using their copper-coiled bracelet system in tested scenarios.
“Such a micro-watt level of harvested energy has the potential to power up ultra-low-power sensors such as temperature sensors and glucose sensors,” they said.
The team did not specify in their design how the harvested radiation would be relayed to devices.
Two bracelets harvest more RF than one
The team said they were able to harvest more RF radiation when an individual wore two bracelets, one on each arm.
Increasing the number of bracelets would not increase the wearer’s exposure to RF, according to Minhao Cui — a Ph.D. student of information and computer sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who worked with Xiong on the project.
“The Bracelet only ‘extracts’ [RF] energy from the human body, which is already captured by the human body,” he said, “so no matter how many bracelets we wear, [it] will not influence people’s exposure to RF.”
The team said wearing the bracelet “does not cause any health issues” because the maximum amount of RF radiation from VLC is “around 0.01 microwatts per squared centimeter (mW/cm2)” — which is “far below” the RF limits specified by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
FCC guidelines set the limit for human exposure to RF at 0.2 mW/cm2 and FDA specifies an upper limit of 10 mW/cm2, they said.
‘One of the worst ideas ever’
However, Bill Bathgate, an electrical engineer and certified building biology environmental consultant, said it wasn’t feasible to think that wearing the bracelets would not increase people’s exposure to RF. “That’s not possible,” he said.
Commenting on the study, Bathgate said, “This is one of the worst ideas ever.” It uses the human body as a “telecommunications point in some kind of network grid” and could result in “health effects we can’t predict,” he said.
Bathgate criticized the researchers for using FCC and FDA regulations as a measure of health impacts. “These are the two of the most corrupt organizations I’ve ever met in this field of electrical engineering,” he said.
“The FCC is not a health agency,” Bathgate said, “The FDA is — but it doesn’t know anything about RF.”