Planar high-gain antennas to lower costs and improve performance

Case study from the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.

Most electronic devices we use today that are a vital part of our modern lives—including smartphones, laptops, tablets, televisions, radios and radars—rely on spectrum frequencies to carry information. Wireless signals are transmitted via these spectrum frequencies by mobile phones and Wi-Fi, to car radars for automatic braking, cloud and rain monitoring radars, garage door openers and TV remote controls.

The antennas found in some current communication systems are not energy efficient and can also cause radio frequency pollution to wireless systems that share the same frequency bands or channels. Flat (planar) high-gain conformal antennas overcome these disadvantages. They also overcome issues of poor durability to the outdoors, being manually controlled and having a lack of a visual appeal.

Australia-India Strategic Research Fund

With support from the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund, Professor Karu Esselle from Macquarie University led an Australian research team in partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur in developing a novel, versatile class of low-profile (thin) high-gain antennas with steerable antenna beams, for current and emerging wireless communication systems.

As a result of this collaboration, the joint project team was successful in designing, building and testing several antenna prototypes demonstrating the electromagnetic band gap / metasurface concepts that improve antenna performance.

These innovative antennas have significant economic, social and environmental benefits: they are inexpensive, some costing up to one hundred times less than current commercial counterparts, produce high performance and have appealing, thin and flat shapes that can be conformably attached to any surface (without sticking out), with potential for commercialisation into a rapidly expanding global wireless communication market.

The low-cost antennas produced by this research provides a path for significantly improving the internet service, and hence quality of life, for those living in areas with low-level or non-existent wireless broadband signals. People living in regional Australia and in developing countries will be able to access better internet services using this low-cost beam-steering technology to access forthcoming low-earth-orbit satellite constellations. Contemporary wireless systems such as base-station wireless backhaul feeding based on this antenna technology also significantly reduce public exposure to radio-frequency pollution and consume less electricity.

Macquarie University has filed an international patent application for this versatile invention and several application areas have been identified for commercialisation.Recognising the minimal latency advantage of this technology in defence applications, the Australian Government’s Defence Science and Technology Group has recently submitted a collaborative project proposal to Macquarie University. A company based in Silicon Valley, California has approached the inventors and expressed interest in adapting this technology for communication between spacecraft, citing that this is the most power-efficient high-gain antenna beam-steering technology they could find anywhere in the world. Discussions are also currently ongoing with several other domestic and overseas companies, on further development and commercialisation.

Team leaders

Australian Team Leader:
Professor Karu Esselle, Macquarie University

Indian Team Leader:
Professor Animesh Biswas, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur

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