Nanoparticles Enable 3D Printing for Cell Phone Antennas

After nanotechnology manages to develop a solution for mobile devices so that they don’t need to be charged every day, I would like if nanotech could lead to a solution for the dropped call.

Mobile phones where the batteries run down in a few hours are really annoying but I think dropped calls from bad reception runs a close second in my annoyance scale.

I may not have to wait that long if research at the University of Illinois in making a 3D antenna for mobile phones can successfully make it commercially available cell phones.

The research, which was initially published in the Wiley journal Advanced Materials, employed an ink jet printing method that used silver nanoparticles and were sprayed on the inside or the ourside of a small hemispherical dome.

“To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of 3D printed antennas on curvilinear surfaces,” Jennifer A. Lewis, the Hans Thurnauer Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and director of the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory at Illinois is quoted as saying in the University press release. “Omnidirectional printing of metallic nanoparticle inks offers an attractive alternative for meeting the demanding form factors of 3D electrically small antennas (ESAs).”

The functionality of antennas for mobile phones has not fared well in the overall miniaturization of the gadgets with characteristics such as gain, efficiency, bandwidth, and range all suffering.

According Jennifer T. Bernhard, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Illinois, the 3D antennas that the research team has developed are an order of magnitude better in performance metrics than the typical monopole designs.

“There has been a long-standing problem of minimizing the ratio of energy stored to energy radiated—the Q—of an ESA,” Bernhard explains in the article. “By printing directly on the hemispherical substrate, we have a highly versatile single-mode antenna with a Q that very closely approaches the fundamental limit dictated by physics (known as the Chu limit).”

The researchers claim that this design can be quickly adapted to conform to different specifications, such as operating frequencies, device sizes or encapsulated designs. 

Phones that can last a month on a charge or don’t even need a battery because they can run own their own mechanical energy and no more dropped calls…mobile phones are beginning to sound a lot more attractive.

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Nanoclast

IEEE Spectrum’s nanotechnology blog, featuring news and analysis about the development, applications, and future of science and technology at the nanoscale.

 
Editor
Dexter Johnson
Madrid, Spain
 
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Rachel Courtland
Associate Editor, IEEE Spectrum
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