Antenna-on-a-chip may be feasible, EM research indicates

April 10, 2015 // By Graham Prophet
You may have thought that after more than a century of radio communications, the physics of antenna operation would be entirely understood: apparently not, according to a group or researchers at the University of Cambridge. Their work deals with the mechanisms that launch energy into free space (in transmission) and, reciprocally, capture it from the electromagnetic fields in receptions.

One of the consequences of their work is that it appears possible that effective antennae might be fabricated at physical scales comparable to those of integrated circuit dice. That would open up the possibility of a completely chip-scale system, including all elements of RF communication – which would be an enticing prospect for construction of Internet-of-Things “motes”.

The work accounts for radiation from conductive antennae, from the widely used but less-well-understood dielectric antennae, and extends it into the use of piezo-electric materials – especially, films – from which the possibility of effective radiation from very small structures emerges.

This note from Cambridge does not offer details such as the ratios between physical dimension and wavelength that might be possible, and refers only to “certain frequencies”; it also alludes to resonant behaviour in the piezo materials, possibly implying that any given antenna made this way might be tuned and narrow-band. Here, however, is the statement issued by the University;

“New understanding of the nature of electromagnetism could lead to antennas small enough to fit on computer chips – the ‘last frontier’ of semiconductor design – and could help identify the points where theories of classical electromagnetism and quantum mechanics overlap.

A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge have unravelled one of the mysteries of electromagnetism, which could enable the design of antennas small enough to be integrated into an electronic chip. These ultra-small antennas – the so-called ‘last frontier’ of semiconductor design – would be a massive leap forward for wireless communications.

In new results published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the researchers have proposed that electromagnetic waves are generated not only from the acceleration of electrons, but also from a phenomenon known as symmetry breaking. In addition to the implications for wireless communications, the discovery could help identify the points where theories of classical electromagnetism and quantum mechanics overlap.


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