Multiferroic Conversion of Electromagnetic Waves for Antenna Receiver Module
Researchers at the NSF-funded Nanosystems Engineering Research Center (NERC) for Translational Applications of Nanoscale Multiferroic Systems (TANMS), which is led by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), have achieved the first demonstration of multiferroic conversion of electromagnetic (EM) waves for an antenna receiver module. (Ferroic [or “smart”] materials have physical properties that are sensitive to changes in external conditions, such as magnetic and electrical fields; multiferroic materials exhibit simultaneous sensitivities.)
This demonstration substantiates the potential of constructing and testing an element representing an electronically small receiving antenna— in other words, an antenna that is an order of magnitude smaller than a conventional antenna. It is important to note that, without sophisticated modeling efforts, TANMS’s attempts would have failed (i.e., multidisciplinary involvement was critical). Although much work remains to be completed on developing a competitive receiving antenna, this result represents a milestone engineering achievement in demonstrating the fundamental concept.
The concept is based on understanding that antenna structures are a resonance-based platform where physical size is dictated by the signal wavelength. The wavelength is proportional to the speed of the wave and the operational frequency; speed is usually taken as the speed of light. The ERC researchers realized that EM waves could be converted into a mechanical wave and thus slow the wave speed down by several orders of magnitude, thereby decreasing the wavelength of the signal and allowing for drastic reduction of antenna size. The underlying UCLA technology has recently been submitted as a provisional patent.
This work was originally initiated under an Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) contract focusing on modeling multiferroic antennas and followed by Boeing Company support on fabricating and testing a multiferroic antenna receiver. Therefore, this accomplishment represents approximately 3-5 years of research effort. Success was due to collaboration between multidisciplinary experts in EM, antennas, materials, fabrication, mechanics, and modeling. Such collaboration is required by TANMS’ testbed-based research. During this program (including the AFOSR and Boeing support), several iterations were required to successfully fabricate and test the structure. Also, the fabrication process was a complicated and time-intensive endeavor. Finally, testing of the structure was also a non-trivial exercise.