A new high-performance ‘phase shifter’ for advanced phase array antenna systems was developed at the University of Birmingham, using a liquid Gallium alloy, which varies the phase angle of microwave and millimeter-wave radio signals.
The enabling technology targets advanced phased array antennas (PAA), widely used in mobile base stations, satellites, and radar systems. These systems use multiple phase shifters to provide the controlled phase increments that steer a radiation beam. Current semiconductor phase shifters suffer from high signal loss and poor power handling capability.
The research team designed a new type of phase shifter that controls the phase shift via a liquid-metal material that runs in microfluidic channels. The prototype testing results are published in IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques.
Most conventional phase shifters provide different phase delays at different frequencies (dispersion), limiting their usable bandwidth and applicability; this phase shifter has a ‘phase compensation’ technique that provides extremely low phase deviation with frequency over a wide bandwidth.
The University of Birmingham Enterprise has filed a patent application covering the microfluidic channel wave-guiding device. The research team, which has extensive experience working with the industry, is now seeking to license the novel technology for development and commercialization and is doing further research to expand this protection.