Spray-on Nanoparticle Mix Turns Trees Into Antennas

A small company called ChamTech Operations based in Utah has developed a nanoparticle mix that can be sprayed on any vertical object—like a tree—and make that object act as a high-powered antenna.

Not only can the sprayed-on nanoparticles make trees into antennas, but it can also extend the range of an existing antenna by a factor of 100, according to one of the principals of the company, Anthony Sutera. For instance, in RFID tags the nanoparticle spray extended the readable range of the tag from a mere five feet (1.5 meters) to 700 feet (200 m).

The material that Chamtech came up with contains nanoparticles that when sprayed on a surface act as nanocapacitors. The nanocapacitors charge and discharge very quickly and don’t create any heat that can reduce the efficiency of your typical copper antenna. The trick was to get the nanocapacitors to spread out in just the right pattern.

While watching the unassuming Sutera deliver his presentation (see below), I have to confess to being a bit incredulous.

But from the little I could find out about the technology, it seems to be what Sutera claims. A patent was issued last month. However, as far as some of the capabilities for the spray-on antenna, I haven’t been able to confirm them.

Nonetheless it’s not without precedent for nanoparticles to improve antenna range. Last year researchers at the University of Illinois used nanoparticles to create a 3-D antenna for cellphones. In that case, the 3-D antennas that the research team developed were an order of magnitude better—using such performance metrics as gain, efficiency, bandwidth, and range—than the typical monopole designs.

This product seems to take it all to another level. Perhaps most intriguing from an everyday electronics user perspective is that they sprayed the nanoparticles onto an iPhone antenna and put it into a Faraday cage. When they compared the dBm from the standard antenna to the one they sprayed, they measured an increase of 20 dBm from the standard antenna.

Another intriguing application, Sutera suggests in the video, is using the spray-on material in the white lines of the highway. This could make it possible to have high bandwidth connectivity in your car.

In the meantime, it appears that the technology was originally intended for military applications. According to the video, the military was suitably impressed.

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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.

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