Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Shape shifters: Researchers create new breed of antennas

Date:
December 1, 2009
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
Antennas aren't just for listening to the radio anymore. They're used in everything from cell phones to GPS devices. New research is revolutionizing the field of antenna design -- creating shape-shifting antennas that open the door to a host of new uses in fields ranging from public safety to military deployment.

The antenna consists of liquid metal injected into elastomeric microchannels. The antennas can be deformed (twisted and bent) since the mechanical properties are dictated by the elastomer and not the metal.
Credit: Image courtesy of North Carolina State University

Antennas aren't just for listening to the radio anymore. They're used in everything from cell phones to GPS devices. Research from North Carolina State University is revolutionizing the field of antenna design -- creating shape-shifting antennas that open the door to a host of new uses in fields ranging from public safety to military deployment.

Related Articles


Modern antennas are made from copper or other metals, but there are limitations to how far they can be bent -- and how often -- before they break completely. NC State scientists have created antennas using an alloy that "can be bent, stretched, cut and twisted -- and will return to its original shape," says Dr. Michael Dickey, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State and co-author of the research.

The researchers make the new antennas by injecting an alloy made up of the metals gallium and indium, which remains in liquid form at room temperature, into very small channels the width of a human hair. The channels are hollow, like a straw, with openings at either end -- but can be any shape. Once the alloy has filled the channel, the surface of the alloy oxidizes, creating a "skin" that holds the alloy in place while allowing it to retain its liquid properties.

"Because the alloy remains a liquid," Dickey says, "it takes on the mechanical properties of the material encasing it." For example, the researchers injected the alloy into elastic silicone channels, creating wirelike antennas that are incredibly resilient and that can be manipulated into a variety of shapes. "This flexibility is particularly attractive for antennas because the frequency of an antenna is determined by its shape," says Dickey. "So you can tune these antennas by stretching them."

While the alloy makes an effective antenna that could be used in a variety of existing electronic devices, its durability and flexibility also open the door to a host of new applications. For example, an antenna in a flexible silicone shell could be used to monitor civil construction, such as bridges. As the bridge expands and contracts, it would stretch the antenna -- changing the frequency of the antenna, and providing civil engineers information wirelessly about the condition of the bridge.

Flexibility and durability are also ideal characteristics for military equipment, since the antenna could be folded or rolled up into a small package for deployment and then unfolded again without any impact on its function. Dickey thinks these new applications are the most likely uses for the new antennas, since the alloy is more expensive than the copper typically used in most consumer electronics that contain antennas.

Dickey's lab is performing further research under a National Science Foundation grant to better understand the alloy's properties and means of utilizing it to create useful devices.

The research is co-authored by Dickey, NC State doctoral students Ju-Hee So, Amit Qusba and Gerard Hayes, NC State undergraduate student Jacob Thelen, and University of Utah professor Dr. Gianluca Lazzi, who participated in the research while a professor at NC State. The research is published in Advanced Functional Materials.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ju-Hee So, Jacob Thelen, Amit Qusba, Gerard J. Hayes, Gianluca Lazzi, Michael D. Dickey. Reversibly Deformable and Mechanically Tunable Fluidic Antennas. Advanced Functional Materials, 2009; 19 (22): 3632 DOI: 10.1002/adfm.200900604

Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "Shape shifters: Researchers create new breed of antennas." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091201100545.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2009, December 1). Shape shifters: Researchers create new breed of antennas. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091201100545.htm
North Carolina State University. "Shape shifters: Researchers create new breed of antennas." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091201100545.htm (accessed October 26, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) Brave Robotics and Asratec teamed with original Transformers toy company Tomy to create a functional 5-foot-tall humanoid robot that can march and fold itself into a 3-foot-long sports car. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Police Testing New Gunfire Tracking Technology

Police Testing New Gunfire Tracking Technology

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) A California-based startup has designed new law enforcement technology that aims to automatically alert dispatch when an officer's gun is unholstered and fired. Two law enforcement agencies are currently testing the technology. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins