Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) scientists have built a new electronically controlled 2D reflector which could transform antennas, wireless and cell phone communications.
According to the scientists, the new flat panel technology promises improved microwave communications, beam steering without moving pieces, and one-way microwave mirrors.
“Our new reflectors offer lightweight, low-profile alternatives to conventional antennas,” notes Abul Azad of the MPA-CINT group at LANL.
“This is a potential boon for satellites, where minimizing weight and size is crucial.”
“The panels could be easily incorporated onto surfaces of buildings or terrestrial vehicles as well.”
While most reflectors are reciprocal, the new reflector has been designed to break reciprocity, effectively turning it into a one-way mirror.
The flat-panel reflector can be controlled electronically, which means its characteristics can be reconfigured on the fly.
This opens the window for beam steering, customized focusing, and other functions that are difficult to achieve with conventional antenna designs.
Miniaturized versions could further improve chip-based circuitry by ensuring that signals go only to the intended components and don’t lead to inadvertent signals in other parts of the circuit – a problem that chip designers often have to worry about.
According to the scientists, the reflectors are composed of an array of finely structured electronic components on a planar surface.
Applying signals to the components allows the 2D reflector to perform much like a 3D antenna, and in some cases do things no conventional antenna could do.
This sort of a device is known as a ‘metasurface’ because its characteristics can be electronically changed to act in different ways without modifying the physical shape of the surface.
By applying electrical signals to the reflector components, the LANL team has managed to modulate the metasurface to control the direction and frequency of reflected light.
The nonreciprocal response of the reflector can thus prevent antennas from picking up echoes from their outgoing broadcasts and protect delicate circuitry from powerful, potentially damaging incoming signals.
Image and content: Los Alamos National Laboratory