New “Smart” Wireless Communication Systems Provide Low Cost, High Performance Options for Military and Commercial Use

Professor De Flaviis and his research team focus on the integration of novel materials and new technologies in electromagnetic circuits and "smart" antennas

High-tech, wireless communication systems are making extraordinary advancements everyday, and UC Irvine's Franco De Flaviis, Ph.D., is focusing on the integration of novel materials and new technologies in electromagnetic circuits and antennas to establish "smart" wireless communication systems, developing low cost, high performance phased array systems for military and commercial use.  Instead of using traditional semiconductor materials, these "smart" antennas are created on printed circuit boards, enabling higher performance.

De Flaviis, an associate professor in electrical engineering and computer science, and associated with the Center for Pervasive Communications and Computing, utilizes leading edge Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) technology at the Integrated Nanosystems Research Facility (INRF), to create MEMS switches on standard printed circuit boards with laminates substrates (PCB).  

Currently, he is working on the modeling and fabrication of these MEMS devices to be used as tunable elements in microwave circuits, resulting in tunable filters, tunable phase shifters, discrete switches, and "smart" antenna systems.

His team is developing a new concept for antennas called Software Defined Antenna (SDA), including the most significant antenna parameters: frequency of operation, radiation pattern, and sense of polarization defined by the software and actuated by the MEMS switches. The SDA architecture enables these parameters to be defined in real-time by the user, depending on the application.  De Flaviis said that an individual antenna could easily serve several applications, just as a computer works to simultaneously operate different software programs.

For example, if a single antenna is connected to the local area network in order to browse the Internet (WLAN), the user would be able to choose the appropriate frequency and sense of polarization.  However, if the user wanted to make a phone call, De Flaviis said they would switch to the correspondent frequency of operation for their designated phone service. 

Ultimately, this new "smart" antenna technology will allow users the opportunity to search for signals and different services in real-time within a smaller system design, with potential applications in various electronic devices and light-weight, commercial vehicles.  One day, these results may make it possible to have satellite television in cars, as well as on laptops and other commercial products.