Antennas enter the digital world, says team

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Antennas currently in use are mostly based on technology developed 50 years ago, but work undertaken by Aalto University researchers has the potential to allow antennas to enter the digital world.

Until now, says the team, antennas support either a broad frequency range or high efficiency, but radiation efficiency has been decreasing because mobile phones use more frequencies and this has led to shorter transmission range and more basestations.

“Traditionally,” said Jari-Matti Hannulan, “one antenna works with either one or a few different frequencies. Now, we can take advantage of digital electronics to combine several small antenna elements to work together as one antenna that can be made to operate digitally with any frequency.”

The new antenna design is also said to make it possible to support higher data transfer rates, whilst extending battery life through greater efficiency.

Professor Ville Viikari believes the new method will revolutionise 5G communications. “The next step in the development process is underway, with the commencement of tests in cooperation with Huawei. We are also developing, together with Aalto University researchers, digital electronic systems for controlling the antennas.”

Using the approach, smartphone applications like GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi will be able to use one digitally controlled antenna. This, the research team notes, could make phone design easier and allow a larger screen to be used.