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Antenna resolves malfunctions due to frequency shortage

27 May 2014

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Antenna malfunctions due to various devices transmitting signals at the same location may soon become a thing of the past with a new development by researchers from the University of Twente.

There is already a shortage of transmission frequencies, and this shortage will keep on growing. Because the frequency spectrum is becoming so full, several signals sometimes have to use a single frequency. This is how malfunction occurs; various devices transmit signals at the same location, at the same time and on the same frequency, resulting in collisions between information.

Bram Nauta, a professor in Integrated Circuit Design at the University of Twente, said: "At home, we currently use one frequency for our laptop, router, and telephone, etc. But in a few years' time, our homes will have countless appliances that make use of frequencies. For instance, your coffee maker will know you are about to arrive home and will start making you a cup of coffee. To do this, the coffee maker will need a frequency. The same applies to masses of appliances. Our antenna offers a solution for the increasing shortage of frequencies."

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Technically, the ability to make an antenna to deal with malfunctions already existed for some time, but its production was really expensive. Michiel Soer developed smart circuits on a chip, which allow antennas to be manufactured inexpensively. His antenna works with four different receivers instead of one.

Nauta explained: "The malfunctioning signal is taken care of because the circuits on our chip process the incoming signals mathematically. The system can be compared to road traffic. The cars are little packages containing information. At the moment, 'traffic' is regulated with traffic lights and 'cars' have to wait for one another. The antenna that Michiel has designed has replaced the traffic lights with viaducts. The cars can carry on travelling, without bumping into one another or having to wait. This will make Internet faster."

In principle, the antenna is ready for use and will probably be available on the market within two years. Its application includes laptops, tablets, and routers among others. Eventually it will also be possible to use the antenna for other appliances, such as mobile telephones.

Soer's system was published in a paper during a well-known international chip-conference. The research is part of the STARS project in which the University of Twente is a participant, alongside NXP, Thales, and TNO. Soer performs research into reconfigurable phased arrays as a postgraduate student in the Integrated Circuit Design department of the EWI faculty. The research is carried out within the CTIT Institute. Watch the video below to know more about the system.

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