Rice lab scientists have successfully developed carbon nanotube antennas that they claim are better than their copper counterparts currently used in 5G applications.
According to the team from Rice’s Brown School of Engineering, the new antennas are more tough and flexible than their copper counterparts, and can be painted directly onto 5G devices.
The shear-aligned antennas were tested at the NIST facility in Boulder, Colorado, by lead author Amram Bengio, He has since founded a company to further develop the material.
The antennas can easily hold their own with their metal counterparts at the target frequencies of 5, 10 and 14 gigahertz, notes Bengio:
“We were going up to frequencies that aren’t even used in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networks today, but will be used in the upcoming 5G generation of antennas.”
In order to make the films, the Rice team dissolved nanotubes – most of them single-walled and up to 8 microns long – in an acid-based solution.
When spread onto a surface, the shear force produced prompted the nanotubes to self-align, a phenomenon the lab of Matteo Pasquali has applied in other studies too.
Although gas-phase deposition is widely employed as a batch process for trace deposition of metals, the fluid-phase processing method lends itself to more scalable, continuous antenna manufacturing, notes Bengio.
The test films are about the size of a glass slide, and between 1 and 7 microns thick. They are held together by strongly attractive van der Waals forces, which gives the material mechanical properties far better than those of copper.
According to the scientists, the new antennas are not only suitable for 5G networks but also for aircraft and drones where weight is a consideration; as wireless telemetry portals for downhole oil and gas exploration; and for future IoT applications.
Image and content: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University