Low-Profile Ultra-Wideband Wide-Scanning Multi-Function Beam-Steerable Array Antennas

Lead Research Organisation: University of Kent
Department Name: Sch of Engineering & Digital Arts

Abstract

Future intelligent, autonomous platforms (autonomous vehicles, robots, satellites, ships, air planes) and portable terminals are expected to have multiple functions such as wireless communication (with satellites and/or terrestrial base stations and/or ground terminals), ultra-fast data transfer, navigation, sensing, radars, imaging and wireless power transfer. These wireless systems operate at various frequencies. As a single radio frequency (RF) system usually has a narrow bandwidth, multiple RF systems at different frequency bands are often employed, leading to a huge increase in the volume, power consumption and cost. To address this need, it requires a single-aperture ultra-wideband (UWB) phased array capable of operating over an extremely wide range of frequencies, and having a low profile, wide-angle-scanning steerable beams, high gain, high efficiency and multiple polarizations (e.g. right-hand circular polarization for navigation, dual linear polarizations for mobile communication). Such an advanced antenna system does not exist yet. This project aims to tackle the ambitious challenges of addressing this need. This multi-disciplinary research consortium, having RF/microwave/mm-wave phased array researchers working together with researchers in optical beamforming and 3D printing, are ideally placed to development a new generation of low-profile UWB phased arrays, which is expected to find wide uses for both civilian and military applications.

Planned Impact

Phased arrays, due to advantages of beam steering and high gain, are the critical technology for future generation mobile communications (5G and beyond), satellite communications, radar, sensors, Internet of Things (IoT) and radio astronomy. The proposed program will develop a new class of phased array antenna that exhibit low profile, ultra-wideband (UWB) perfor-mance, beam scanning over a wide angular range, high gain and multiple polarizations, fulfilling the requirements of future RF/microwave/mm-wave wireless systems (mobile and satellite communications, IoT, radars, sensors and navigation). The methodology of designing UWB phased array antenna systems including UWB arrays and single-fibre optical beamforming networks will be established, as well as the techniques of 3D printing of planar/non-planar UWB array antennas. To validate the concept, several demonstrators of UWB phased array systems will be built and tested.
Academic: This proposal fits to the scope of EPSRC call "RF and microwave device engineering for a prosperous nation". The objectives of this ambitious project will only be achieved by joint efforts amongst RF/microwave/mm-wave phased array antennas, optical beamforming and 3D printing researchers, and such an approach of "working together" was highlighted in the scope of this EPSRC call. The research proposed here will bring different communities together to carry out this pioneering work and the outcomes of this research are likely to have profound impact across a range of areas in antennas, RF/Microwave/mm-wave, photonics, 3D printing and wireless systems, and bring innovations and breakthroughs to current communication, navigation, radar and sensor technologies.
The University of Kent supports GOLD Open Access for papers published in IEEE and other high-impact-factor Journals, thus we will publicise the results via open access for publications in high-impact factor journals e.g. IEEE T-AP, IEEE T-MTT, J of Lightwave Technology, IEEE Photonics Technol. Letters, and IEEE T-Components, Packaging and Manufacturing Technol. The collaboration is inherently multidisciplinary, thus it allows co-authorship of papers outside of the academics' usual journals and therefore increases the readership and dissemination of core knowledge. Co-authorship be-tween RF and microwave, photonics and 3D printing researchers in journals such as IEEE T-AP for example will expose photonics and 3D printing researchers to a readership they may not usually reach. As a consortium, we expect to publish articles on 'novel designs of UWB phase arrays', 'novel optical beamforming networks", '3D printing of UWB arrays', etc.
The results of the proposed project will also be conveyed to potential beneficiaries (scientists and technologists) through local departmental and university seminars, EPSRC funded CommNet meetings and workshops, invited talks at other Institutes. We will present the results at major conferences (EuCAP, IEEE APS, EuMC, IEEE MWP, IEEE IPC, ECOC).
People: This program will provide an opportunity of developing the careers of young researchers. PDRAs will benefit substantially by building networks and co-authoring papers with senior academics. The investigators have several self-funded research students per year who will join the project.
Economic: Results of this project are expected to contribute to several ambitions of EPSRC's Prosperous Nation Framework, e.g. C2, C3, P1, P2, P3, P4, R3 and H3, as explained in Case for Support.
This project has got very strong support from 11 partners including 10 industrial partners and 1 overseas advisor. Four industrial users (Airbus, SSTL, Dstl and Huawei UK) will be fully engaged with the project. Their involvement is a valuable asset for our project due to their strong focus on research and development, and early deployment and commercial exploitation capabilities.

Publications

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