For Immediate Release
Engineering Professor Involved in Creating a New Class of Antennas
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – DECEMBER 15, 2010 – A University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College faculty member is working with researchers in Georgia and Texas to invent a new type of microwave antenna that involves nanomaterials.
Dr. Fabio Urbani, an associate professor of electrical engineering in the Department of Engineering, is working with Dr. Amit Verma, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Texas A&M University Kingsville and Dr. David Stollberg, a research engineer at the Electro-Optical Systems Laboratory at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta.
The research team has built a microwave antenna using a very thin film of iron, as well as another that uses carbon nanotubes. Microwave antennas made of nanomaterials can potentially revolutionize aircraft and satellite communications, mobile radio and biomedical applications.
“The thickness of the iron film is only about 10 nanometers while the diameter of the carbon nanotubes is about 20 nanometers,” said Urbani. “As a comparison, this is about a thousand times smaller than the thickness of your hair. These antennas have not only demonstrated outstanding performance and reliability, but also very interesting behavior compared to traditional microwave antennas.”
Urbani said the thin-film antenna showed an ability to transmit and receive data over a wide continuous range of frequencies. The antenna with carbon nanotubes showed the potential to work at lower frequencies compared to a traditional antenna, without increasing its size – something that has always been a challenge for antenna designers.
“What makes those antennas technologically significant is not just that they demonstrate the ability of nanomaterials to radiate in the microwave regime, but also the way in which they are developed,” said Urbani.
One of the biggest technological challenges in handling nanomaterials for such applications is the need to make reliable electrical contacts to them. In its efforts, the research group has circumvented the problem making indirect electrical contacts with the nanomaterials.
“If you eliminate the need to put in physical contact with the nanomaterials in such antennas, the potential use for such antennas becomes huge,” said Urbani. “For example, you can now easily solve a big problem that has been facing the semiconductor and computer design industry – how can you send data from one computer chip to another without the need for all those messy pins and electrical connections that slow down a computer.”
Urbani recently presented the joint paper, “Outstanding Performance of Nanofilm Microstrip Antenna” detailing some of their research earlier this fall at the IEEE Nanotechnology Materials and Devices Conference in Monterey, Calif.
The research began two years ago when Verma contacted Urbani after coming across his name in an electrical engineering research journal article.
“The journey since then has been exciting and provides a glimpse into the world of scientific research, with all the initial hopes and promises, false starts, self motivation and dogged determination, and finally success,” said Urbani.
Each of the researchers has his own experiences to bring to the research project.
Urbani’s work focuses on antenna design while Stollberg’s field of expertise is fabricating and developing nanomaterials. Verma’s work is understanding how nanomaterials conduct current. The antennas were developed by Stollberg at the Georgia Tech Research Institute. They were tested at the Applied Microwave and Electromagnetic Laboratory at UTB/TSC, a laboratory founded by Urbani.
“The next step in our work is to develop and test more antennas, and solve many of the technological challenges that such antennas can address. An entirely new field of innovation and possibilities has opened up.” said Urbani.