Singapore – Researchers at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) and Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) have perfected a low-temperature co-fired ceramic (LTCC) antenna for use in the 57 – 64 GHz millimeter-wave bands. These wireless frequencies are unlicensed and have been difficult or expensive to utilize due to limitations in existing antenna technology. This newly developed packaging solution addresses those shortcomings and offers a great acceleration to a world-wide network of high-speed, always-on, Internet-connected devices through hubs.
Even though this 60 GHz band is unlicensed worldwide, the “I triple E” (Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, Inc.) are currently developing standards for applications desiring to use these frequencies, which are made economically possible by SIMTech’s AIP (antenna in package).
While previous solutions were attempted using conventional circuit board designs and antennas, these have proven ineffective or too bulky for practical applications. SIMTech’s new BGA surface-mounted design makes the band now economically feasible for use, and practical for new product designers.
NTU’s research and problem solving skills in the 60 GHz band ultimately led to the design of the antenna and its specs, but it was SIMTech’s packaging abilities which produced the end product. The award winning research team included Associate Professor Zhang Yue Ping and Dr. Sun Mei of NTU, along with Mr. Chua Kai Meng and Ms Wai Lai Lai of SIMTech.
Going ape over AIP
The AIP is really what makes it so nice. SIMTech had disclosed their intentions to build a similar device back in December, 2007 through a PDF of their work published through the IEEE. Subsequent updates were given periodically until the culmination of this device which is now being announced.
The device is a BGA (ball grid array) surface-mount combined antenna and radio module. It is a one-shot, meaning it can be installed in virtually any piece of equipment and operates provided there is power and data.
Wireless USB and other products
Early products which will utilize the technology are believed to be at-home video streaming, high speed wireless LAN, automatic synchronization between mobile phones and computers, and nearly instantaneous file transfers with wireless USB.
Short signals always connected
Since the 60 GHz band will utilize wireless USB, an entire range of possible applications becomes possible. No longer will Bluetooth be required for nearby remote data exchange. In fact, the 60 GHz band has limitations in range due to interference from elements in the atmosphere like oxygen and even water vapor. However, this may also prove to be one of its greatest assets.
While the signals from one house may not be received a few houses down, this means that the same frequencies can be used over and over and over again. A simple cell-like network which coordinates nearby signals would prevent devices from walking over each other, while providing the entire spectrum to essentially everybody worldwide, and all at extremely high speeds.
Since atmospheric disturbances are not present in space, several satellites utilize these millimeter-wave frequencies for satellite-to-satellite communications despite the previous expense and difficulty in antenna manufacturing.
The 60 GHz band falls pretty low in what is the highest range of the radio spectrum, EHF (Extremely High Frequencies), which operates between 30 and 300 GHz.
There are additional bands currently in use for high-speed, short-range point-to-point data exchanges. These include the 71-76 GHz band, the 81-86 GHz band and 92-95 GHz bands, all of which require licensing but are not as affected by atmospheric elements. The 92-95 GHz band is targeted for a 10 Gbps link, which is enough to carry four simultaneous, uncompressed, 60fps 1080p video signals in real-time.
Military uses for EHF
The military has also used the 95 GHz band for a nonlethal weapon system called ADS (Active Denial System). In this device, a radio signal is directed at a person. It causes water molecules in their skin to heat to 130 degrees Fahrenheit in a couple seconds. This operates much like a microwave oven, but the 95 GHz band was chosen because its signal only reaches to a depth of about 1/64th inch in skin.
While it is not truly harmful, it makes the recipient feel as though their clothes are on fire causing them to seek immediate escape from the radio source. As soon as the beam ceases or out of reach, the recipient has no residual pain or discomfort. In practicality, this device is better than water hoses because there are no residual effects (other than possibly anger and dismay directed toward the attacker).