Mini metamaterial antennas could improve satellite communications

Engineers from Pennsylvania State University are developing smaller, lighter, and more multifunctional miniature antennas made out of smart materials that could increase performance and lead to better satellite communications systems.

The antennas are made of metamaterials,  man-made materials that possess properties not typically found in nature, and can be incorporated into modern digital electronic radios controlled by software which has the potential to transform communications systems by offering better frequency and polarization agility.

Metamaterial-enabled antenna. (Image Credit: Penn State)
Metamaterial-enabled antenna. (Image Credit: Penn State)

In their research, the engineers developed a small metamaterial antenna that they operated by simultaneously tuning components of the metamaterial and the antenna together as a system

“Metamaterial-based antennas often suffer a stigma of impractically narrow operating bandwidths, just like small antennas,” said Clinton Scarborough, who worked on this research for his dissertation. “Radios need to be able to operate over a significant bandwidth, but typically only on a single channel at a time. The laws of physics dictate that a small metamaterial antenna will have a small bandwidth, but modern radios can easily tune the antenna so that it operates on whatever channel the radio is currently using, giving comparable performance to a large broadband antenna while taking up less space and even providing new capabilities.”

The tunable metamaterial that they developed allowed them to tune a miniaturized antenna with narrow instantaneous bandwidths across an entire communications band depending on the channel in use, according to Douglas H. Werner, Professor of Electrical Engineering at Penn State.

“Tuning the metamaterial and antenna in tandem provides a dynamic operating channel, with a tunable, nearly-arbitrary polarization response as an added benefit,” said Werner. “By employing our functionalized metamaterial concepts, we have been able to devise a way to dynamically tune the frequency response and polarization for the antenna, while, at the same time, providing a pathway to scaling the designs to low frequencies.”

The Penn State team is not the first to develop metamaterial antennas, but other groups have had a difficult time figuring out how to shrink them down while still maintaining practical weight and size. Typically, the lower the frequency, the larger the antenna would be.

Story via Penn State University.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.