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Antenna Technology

Technologies
 Advance the Art of Antenna Science

December 1, 2012
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Air Force researchers use 3-D printers and
 other cutting-edge concepts 
to create
 the next 
innovations.

There is no Moore’s Law for antennas because size reduction and performance improvement will always be subject to the limitations imposed by electromagnetic physics and material properties. But steady advances in computer technologies, such as electromagnetic modeling and simulation and 3-D printing, enable antenna technology researchers to push the limits of possibility on behalf of the warfighters.

Scientists and engineers at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Antenna Technology Branch, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, are taking advantage of these technological advances to develop next-generation antennas. Experts say metamaterials show great promise for military antennas, but the technology is not yet at a point where it is being manufactured widely. To help overcome that challenge, Air Force researchers use a 3-D printer to prototype antenna metamaterials that potentially could advance technology beyond the more conventional microstrip antenna. Small, lightweight, low-cost microstrip antennas, which were invented about four decades ago, are used in military aircraft, missiles, rockets and satellite communications as well as in the commercial sector.

“It allows us a capability in rapid prototyping that we didn’t have before,” says David Curtis, the AFRL’s Antenna Technology Branch chief. “It’s yielding some interesting things. It’s creating new ground planes for antenna elements.”

Simulation Project Demonstrates Covert Applications

March 2010
By Rita Boland, SIGNAL Magazine

Researchers in the United Kingdom have completed a preliminary investigation into the use of millimeter-wave, body-worn antenna arrays to create mobile ad hoc networking for dismounted combat soldiers. The effort proved the feasibility and benefits of such a network as well as provided a platform for future study of the concept. Personnel involved in the experiments focused their work on the 60-GHz band, which offers the high amount of bandwidth necessary for troops to exchange large quantities of information on the battlefield. The short range of the communications enhances covertness by reducing the chance for enemies to exploit transmissions, and it also reduces interference.

Shape-Shifting Antennas Flex Their Muscles

March 2010
By Maryann Lawlor, SIGNAL Magazine

Digital natives probably don’t remember how home TV viewers had to manually adjust “rabbit ears”—those odd-shaped dipole antennas that sat atop a TV sprouting wires and sporting any number of dials to turn in the hope of improving the picture. But when a recently uncovered use for an alloy comprising gallium and indium becomes widespread as the go-to material for antennas, the newest antennas may be able to adjust themselves without a human hand. Although only in the second stage of research, the combination of these well-known materials already has demonstrated that when bent and twisted, antennas return to their original shape; when cut with a razor, they heal.

Antenna Advances Counter Bombs and Improve Communications

March 2010
By Henry S. Kenyon, SIGNAL Magazine

Researchers are pursuing advances in radio antenna technology to build communication equipment into body armor and to offer more capable and efficient methods for countering roadside bombs. Virtual modeling techniques incorporating developments in materials science currently are testing and verifying prototype equipment before physical testing begins. This combination of cutting-edge research and simulation has rapidly matured these antenna technologies and prepared them for initial operational evaluations.

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