Synthetic materials using metallic and non-metallic nanoparticles at microwave frequencies

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Electronic, Electrical & Systems Enginee

Abstract

The aim of this research is to fabricate microwave radiating antennas and substrates using nanomaterials. These novel dielectric substrates will facilitate electromagnetic advantages.Antennas are becoming increasingly prevalent in our modern, wireless and digital society; they are crucial for voice and data communication, GPS information and the provision of wireless communication between components of larger integrated systems. Antennas are subject to constant market forces which demand that products and their antennas become cheaper and smaller with improved functionality. With multiple antennas with multiband and MIMO capabilities whilst in very close proximity, for example on a mobile phone, the isolation between the different antennas also requires technological advances for improvement. The establishment of a novel technique to create antennas with improved radiation efficiency would reduce energy consumption.Nanoparticles are typically smaller than one millionth of a metre in at least one dimension and can be combined to form nanomaterials. Yet because the size of nanoparticles is so small and their resultant surface area-to-volume ratio so extremely large, nanomaterials possess a range of very useful and exciting properties. These include proportionately increased electrical conductivity, strength, heat and scratch resistance. Note, we will not be using nano-powders so the health risks will be minimal - and we will take all necessary steps to further minimise them.The use of nanomaterials will fundamentally allow increased versatility and improve functionality by design innovations. This area of research is highly novel as the use of nanomaterials as proposed here has not previously been reported at the application-rich microwave frequencies (wavelength ~ 30cm >> 1 micron). Using such nanomaterials for microwave antennas would allow manufacturing benefits as the antenna, the substrate and RF circuitry can be constructed together and integrated into one process. Currently, antennas designs are limited to certain specific fixed substrate properties. By constructing the substrate from non-metallic nanomaterials, advantageous, novel and heterogeneous substrates, with low losses and desirable electric and magnetic properties, can be produced, which can then be tailored for specific applications. Creating antennas from nanomaterials enables highly conductive and thinner than conventional layers.Intensive simulations using high performance computers will enhance Loughborough University's (LU) recent pilot study of how these novel antennas can behave. When these preparatory stages have been completed, prototype samples and antennas will be fabricated. Initially, geometrically simple antenna designs such as dipoles and patches will be used, enabling extrapolation to more complex antenna geometries later in the project. Once these are created their characteristics will be measured using LU's anechoic chamber, and compared with the simulation results.LU is ideally placed to research this exciting new area. The Communications Group has extensive expertise of simulating, design and measuring antennas and metamaterials. We have assembled an extremely strong multi-disciplinary team which has over 700 journal publications and more than 100 patents and book chapters. The Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST) has the capabilities to produce and characterise our specially made nanostructures. We also have close contacts with Patras University in Greece, which can fabricate nanostructures by an alternative (but viable) method using polymers.

Planned Impact

This work will lay the foundations for the creation of a new area of antennas and RF research, in nanomaterial and metamaterial antennas at microwave frequencies which we anticipate will be active for several decades. The work will help unite the rapidly expanding area of nanomaterials and the application-rich area of antenna and RF research and has implications and opportunities for all aspects of commercial antenna design, including medical applications such as wireless monitoring of physiological changes. The Investigators and their colleagues at Loughborough University (LU) will gain from increased expertise in the simulation and measurement of antennas and an enhanced understanding of how to produce nanomaterials. The Investigators have a strong history of publishing their research findings. These will be disseminated to industry and academia by publishing and presenting at international conferences (see Academic Beneficiaries Summary). The work will also be publicised by creating a new dedicated website, publishing in popular journals, press releases, popular media and via LU news items. The future challenges and opportunities arising from the research will be assessed and published. This will enable other academics and commercial companies to build on the project's findings. Creating substrates using nanomaterials is expected to improve the performance of antennas and RF components in a broad range of criteria, including frequency coverage, bandwidth, gain, size and weight. Currently the main cost of producing antennas is related to the area of the PCB required and the printing and etching processes which are time-consuming and require chemicals. By simultaneously fabricating the substrate, the antenna and ancillary RF components in one process, fabrication costs, complexity, time scales and manual intervention can be decreased. In addition, environmentally-friendly fabrication processes can be used. This work will benefit the manufacture of industrial antennas by reducing the unit production cost as well as the factory set-up costs. The general public will, in turn, benefit from an increased level of performance and variety of application options. It is expected that designs which are constrained by physical space and are, therefore, already subject to performance compromises, such as pentaband mobile phone handsets, may be the greatest beneficiaries of the research. Another specific area of application for nanomaterials is wearable antennas and textile wireless which need to be light, flexible and breathable. Note, the Investigators have a track record in all these areas. The CMCR and WiCR research Groups at LU has a proven reputation for innovation and commercial exploitation, through their extensive industrial collaborations. Any intellectual property (IP) arising from the research will be protected and exploited in conjunction with the Intellectual Property Office at LU, in accordance with published EPSRC guidelines. Two industrial Project Partners will ensure that the work has commercial applications and will have first option to the rights. Antrum Ltd. (www.antrum.co.uk) is a LU spin-off company which has a track record of patenting and exploiting IP involving antennas, RF and Metasurfaces research developed by the CMCR and WiCR Groups working with ESA, Orange, BSkyB and a number of manufacturing outlets. LU has many close contacts with commercial antenna companies. These links have been established during previous collaborations. In addition, LU has strong links with over 30 companies who exhibited at the Loughborough Antennas & Propagation Conference in 2009 and previous years. These companies will be approached to see if there is potential for collaboration in this area.
 
Description Demonstration of artificial non conducting materials (dielectrics) composed of small scale inclusions in a base medium.
Exploitation Route This grant has paved the way for a multi-university and industrial collaborative EPSRC Grand Challenge, SYnthesizing METAmaterials for RF, microwave and THz applications, 'SYMETA'
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Retail

URL http://publications.lboro.ac.uk/publications/all/collated/eljcv.html
 
Description This grant has led to two Loughborough University Enterprise development grants. They have been exhibited at a conference. Discussions with companies are ongoing. This work has paved the way for a £5M EPSRC Grand Challenge SYMETA.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics
Impact Types Economic

 
Description EPSRC, Grand Challenge
Amount £4,000,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/N010493/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2016 
End 03/2021
 
Description Enterprise Grant to develop dielectric constant measurement system
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Organisation Loughborough University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2016 
End 01/2018
 
Description SYnthesizing 3D METAmaterials for RF, microwave and THz applications (SYMETA) (PI: Prof. Vardaxoglou)
Amount £4,000,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/N010493/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2016 
End 02/2021
 
Description Software development of Synthetic materials
Amount £34,000 (GBP)
Organisation Loughborough University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 08/2017
 
Description Metasurfaces 
Organisation University of Siena
Country Italy 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Novel metamaterials
Collaborator Contribution Simulations
Impact Phase 3. In progress
Start Year 2016
 
Description Research mentioned in ~ 70 Visit Day Talks and Outreach Events 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Dr. Whittow was the UG Admissions Tutor and hence part of my job was to go to schools and give talks about Engineering. As this research combined the exciting area of 3D printing and antennas, I use(d) it in all my talks at schools or Open Days. I have also used it when i talk about promoting Women In Engineering of which I am strong supporter. Total amount of talk is estimated at 70. It is a powerful communication tool to be able to show an animation of the electric fields while the students can hold the 3D printed samples in their hands.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
URL http://www.wes.org.uk/content/men-allies-award
 
Description Talks at conferences, schools and other events 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This work has been mentioned in many talks at schools, conferences and workshops
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016