Scientists to develop liquid antennas for IoT and 5G

January 18, 2017 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Reseachers at the University of Liverpool have been awarded £578k funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop liquid antennas which have the potential to transform modern radio communications and radar.

As the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G become more of a reality, there is a need to develop a new type of antenna which is small, transparent and has better reconfigurability than conventional metal antennas.

Though traditional antennas made out of materials such as copper have good conductive properties, they are also large, heavy and expensive and can be hard to reconfigure with limited bandwidth.

While it is known that water can be used as an antenna, and has potential to overcome many of the problems facing traditional metal antenna, it becomes ice once the temperature goes below 0ºC.

The research project will bring together radio engineering experts from the Department of Electrical Engineering & Electronics (Professor Huang's team) with Material Scientists in the Department of Chemistry (Professor Xiao's team), to identify the most suitable liquid materials which can be used as antenna.

The liquids will be tested for low loss, thermal and mechanical stability, whether they can work in temperatures ranging from -30 to +60ºC, if they transmit the correct frequency range (from kHz to GHz) and have RF and microwave power range up to 100 kW.

The project will also investigate how to design and make compact and efficient liquid antennas which are flexible or reconfigurable in terms of the main antenna parameters (such as the operational frequency, radiation pattern, and size) and suitable for a wide range of real world applications.