Lead Niobate-based Tunable Dielectrics for Smart Microwave and Millimeter-wave Systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Chemistry

Abstract

Electronically beam-steerable array antennas (phased arrays or smart antennas) at microwave and millimetre-wave (mm-wave) frequencies are extremely important for various wireless systems including satellite communications, terrestrial mobile communications, radars, "Internet Of Things", wireless power transmission, satellite navigations and deep-space communication. Traditionally, beam steering of antenna is achieved by moving the reflector mechanically, which is slow, bulky and not reliable. Phased arrays, which integrate antennas and phase shifter circuits, are an attractive alternative to gimbaled parabolic reflectors as they offer rapid beam steering towards the desired targets and better reliability. Phase shifters are critical components in phased arrays as the beam steering is achieved by controlling phase shifters electronically.

A promising research direction to create small, fast, reliable phase shifters with low insertion loss at high frequency is the use of tunable dielectric materials due to its potential of monolithic fabrication of array antennas and circuits. A breakthrough in such materials came recently when we demonstrated that Lead Niobate Pyrochlores PbnNb2O5+n gives the best combination of dielectric constant, tunability and low loss of any known thin film system. Translating these superior materials properties into actual device performance and high-performance electronically beam-steerable arrays antennas at microwave and mm-wave bands are the key aims of this project

Planned Impact

The proposed program aims to find tunable dielectric materials which have low loss and high tunability for meeting the requirements of future wireless communication systems where all RF/microwave/millimeter-wave components and circuits need to be "tuneable". To investigate the performance of the materials in practical devices, circuits and sub-systems, tuneable dielectric will then be applied into microwave and millimeter-wave phase shifter circuits and phased arrays. Phased arrays, due to advantages of electronically beam steering and high gain, are the critical technology for next-generation mobile communications (5G), broadband satellite communications and radar systems.

The general public and communication service subscribers will benefit from broadband multimedia services with enhanced efficiency, speed, range, performance and sustainability.

This research facilitates generation of innovative applications in communication systems, benefits the communications industry with low cost improvements to the wireless link and enhances the UK's economic competiveness. The research finds will also be useful for UK national security and defence as the phased arrays will increase the performance of radars significantly.

Our industrial partners Ilika plc, BAE Systems, Keysight Technologies, Rohde Schwarz, Huawei Technologies UK Ltd, and NEC Europe have expressed their strong interests in the proposed project. Their involvement is a valuable asset for our project due to their strong focus on research and development, early deployment and commercial exploitation capabilities.

Public engagement activities will ensure a wider education of the population concerning the importance of materials in advanced technology in everyday lives.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Development of probe station for the highthrouput characterization of dielectric properties 
Description An experimental set up is currently being developed for the electrical measurements of the dielectric thin films fabricated. The experimental set up, herafter refferred to as 'probe station' allows the electric characterization as it measures the dielectric tunability of the thin films, the Seebeck coefficient the current -voltage loops etc. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact High Throughput mapping of the dielectric properties of the thin films. 
 
Description Ilika Technologies Ltd 
Organisation BAE Systems
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Use of facilities for the synthesis of BST based libraries, and analytical facilities.
Collaborator Contribution Designs for waveguide fabrication.
Impact No output yet
Start Year 2016
 
Description Ilika Technologies Ltd 
Organisation Huawei Technologies
Country China 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Use of facilities for the synthesis of BST based libraries, and analytical facilities.
Collaborator Contribution Designs for waveguide fabrication.
Impact No output yet
Start Year 2016
 
Description Ilika Technologies Ltd 
Organisation Ilika
Department Ilika Technologies Ltd.
PI Contribution Use of facilities for the synthesis of BST based libraries, and analytical facilities.
Collaborator Contribution Designs for waveguide fabrication.
Impact No output yet
Start Year 2016
 
Description Ilika Technologies Ltd 
Organisation Keysight Technologies
Country Unknown 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Use of facilities for the synthesis of BST based libraries, and analytical facilities.
Collaborator Contribution Designs for waveguide fabrication.
Impact No output yet
Start Year 2016
 
Description Ilika Technologies Ltd 
Organisation Rohde and Schwarz
Country Germany 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Use of facilities for the synthesis of BST based libraries, and analytical facilities.
Collaborator Contribution Designs for waveguide fabrication.
Impact No output yet
Start Year 2016