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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Design reduces size of antennas by 100x

By Nick Flaherty

Researchers at Northeastern University in the US have developed a technique that can produce antennas that are 10 to 100 times smaller than today's system, bringing the prospect of dramatically smaller embedded systems for the Internet of Things, wearable and medical designs

In a paper published in Nature Communications, Nian Sun, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern and colleagues describe a new approach to designing antennas. This enables researchers to construct antennas that are up to a hundred times smaller than currently available antennas, said Sun.

"A lot of people have tried hard to reduce the size of antennas. This has been an open challenge for the whole society," he said. "We looked into this problem and thought, 'why don't we use a new mechanism?'"

Traditional antennas are restricted by the wavelength of the RF signal, and while techniques such as fractal designs have helped to reduce the area of the antenna, progress has been slow. 

Instead of designing antennas at the electromagnetic wave resonance, the researchers tailored the antennas to acoustic resonance. Acoustic resonance waves are roughly 10 thousand times smaller than electromagnetic waves. This translates to an antenna one to two orders of magnitude - 100 times - smaller.

Since acoustic resonance and electromagnetic waves have the same frequency, the new antennas would still work for cell phones and other wireless communication devices. The researchers found their antennas performed better than traditional kinds.

One such application that neurosurgeons are interested in exploring is a device that could sense neuron behaviour deep in the brain. But bringing this idea to life has stumped researchers, until now. "Something that's millimeters or even micrometers in size would make biomedical implantation much easier to achieve, and the tissue damage would be much less," said Sun.

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