Air Force Researchers Develop Antenna Miniatures

A recent breakthrough in antenna design by researchers at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) working with Northeastern University, has led to an ultra-compact antenna that uses an innovative approach in transmitting and receiving signals. This could be a big step toward miniaturizing many military and commercial communication systems, reported MachineDesign.

Historically, a challenge arose when shrinking the size of antennas because to work effectively in the electromagnetic spectrum, size mattered. Antenna size has been getting smaller over the years, with cell phones as a prime example, but the smaller size does impact the functionality, which is why telecoms place numerous antennas on towers to ensure customers have coverage.

According to Brandon Howe, AFRL materials scientist, “We identified ultra-compact antennas as the critical last step in true device miniaturization. Researchers had successfully shrunk most electronic components, but the true miniaturization of antennas was still a missing piece.”  

How do they work? These antennas use special insulating materials, called “multiferroic composites” which allow ultra-compact antennas to function by sensing the magnetic field of microwaves. “We miniaturized the antennas by borrowing a trick from acoustic filters in cell phones, which convert microwave voltages to strain waves,” says AFRL materials scientist Michael McConney.

The development shrinks the size of an antenna by 90 percent, which impacts potential design constraints and allows antennas to retain much more of their functionality compared to traditional antennas scaled down to the same size. This development could result in smaller devices, including wearable antennas, bio-implantable and bio-injectable antennas, smartphones, and wireless communication systems. The team plans to continue its research to further enhance antenna efficiencies.

October 12, 2017   


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