Communications experts at Loughborough University are looking beyond 5G and developing the longer-term future of wireless technology as part of a £600,000 European research project into electromagnetics and nanoelectronics.
The international initiative will see several universities and technology companies work together towards developing emerging technologies in the fields of artificial electromagnetic materials – manmade with extreme electromagnetic properties – and metamaterials – which are designed to have properties (structural, electromagnetic or acoustic) that naturally occurring materials do not have.
Loughborough’s expertise in antennas and wireless communications will be one of the many specialism brought together to pool cutting-edge knowledge and channel know-how into Nanoarchitectronics (NTX) – an emerging technology combining nanoscale electromagnetics and electronics, which could lead to better health care, more efficient energy use and improved wireless technology.
Nanoarchitectronics refers to a technology which allows scientists to arrange nanoscale (measuring less than one billionth of a metre) structures - groups of atoms or molecules - in a particular configuration and is particularly relevant to work underway at Loughborough University under the EPSRC-funded Grand Challenge SYMETA: Synthesizing 3D Metamaterials for RF, Microwave and THz applications.
The Loughborough research team has several goals for the project, but priorities are:
• Unifying concepts, methodologies, technologies and establishing common theoretical foundations
• Initiating the future application-driven research in this area
• Developing a common strategy for the future
Other aims of the EU funded scheme include improving the sensing capabilities of remotely piloted aircraft in managing natural disasters, controlling microwave antennas and refining the satellite instruments used for monitoring the Earth’s climate.
Professor of Wireless Communications Yiannis Vardaxoglou is the director of SYMETA and is leading Loughborough in Nanoarchitectronics.
He said: “With the advent of 5G and beyond, there will be a requirement for line of sight communications, more complex antenna systems and advanced materials to facilitate the high frequency high bandwidth user requirements.
“Flat lenses can be manufactured using metamaterials to focus mobile phone signals, while bulk material properties can be enhanced to offer new circuit design options.
“With the potential for deployment of such materials on board satellites for example, they can facilitate the focussed earth observation for monitoring of water, rainfall, temperature: all the information for local or global climate monitoring.
“This is an exciting new area with huge potential to deliver new applications.
“Bringing together electromagnetics and nanoelectronics expertise from across Europe will enable breakthrough technologies to develop.”
Since 2007, Loughborough University has been a member of Metamorphose VI AISBL – the Virtual Institute for Artificial Electromagnetic Materials and Metamaterials.
Metamorphose is an active network integrating, managing, and coordinating research in the field of Artificial Electromagnetic Materials and Metamaterials.
It is through Metamorphose at Loughborough is playing an important part in the EU-funded research scheme, a Future and Emerging Technologies Open Coordination and Support Action project, led by the University of Siena in Italy.
Nanoarchitectronics research is truly multi-disciplinary and combines concepts, methods and techniques from physics, electronics, electromagnetics, material science, chemistry, applied maths, with a special emphasis on nanotechnology, microwave to terahertz engineering, nanophotonics, plasmonics, nanoelectronics, and advanced materials.
Nanoarchitectronics also embodies a visionary idea which is emerging from both academic research and high-tech industrial needs: to systematize, homogenize and combine approaches in seemingly different technologies.
Professor Stefano Maci, from the University of Sienna, and the academic lead for Nanoarchitectronics, said: “The project aims to lay the foundation for an ever increasing synergy and progress for nanoarchitechtronics – a new area of research that responds to the need of unifying concepts, methodologies and technologies in communication, sensing systems, safety and security, bio-sensing systems and imaging nanosystems, related to future applications in ICT, transport and environment.”