Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a novel tile-based approach to constructing arrays of 5G+ enabled ‘smart skins’. The paper is published in the journal Scientific Reports. The proposed technique has the potential to enable 5G+ capabilities to a lot of applications such as in smart cities, drones, and various IoT applications.
The proposed technique involves arranging the pre-manufactured tiles on a flexible layer which acts as a flexible base layer for the tiles. This architecture allows for easy installation of extremely large 5G+ steerable antenna array networks to any structure such as a building or an Airplane. For the proof-of-concept(POC), the researchers fabricated a flexible 5x5cm tile array and used it to cover a curvature with a radius of 3.5cm. All the identical tiles used has an antenna along with the beamforming circuit which created an interconnected mesh of tiles with multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMOs). The technique is highly modular
“The shape and features of each tile scale can be singular and can accommodate different frequency bands and power levels,” said Tentzeris. “One could have communications capabilities, another sensing capabilities, and another could be an energy harvester tile for solar, thermal, or ambient RF energy. The application of the tile framework is not limited to communications.”
With the onset of IoT and Industry 4.0, the need for a higher data rate is the need of the hour and the proposed research has the potential for immediate, large-scale adoption in the telecommunication industry for faster, higher capacity, and lower latency communications. The team plans to test the approach in the real world, outside the lab. Currently, the team is trying to fabricate larger, fully inkjet-printed tile arrays.
“The tile architecture’s mass scalability makes its applications particularly diverse and virtually ubiquitous,” said Tentzeris. “From structures the size of dams and buildings to machinery or cars, down to individual health-monitoring wearables.
“We’re moving in a direction where everything will be covered in some type of a wireless conformal smart skin encompassing electronically steerable antenna arrays of widely diverse sizes that will allow for effective monitoring.”
You can read more about this research, here.