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Software simplifies metamaterial-based RF designs

Posted: 09 Sep 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:RF design tool? metamaterial? wireless design?

A British government-backed project has led to the release of RF design tools for antennas and phase shifters that use metamaterials.

Vector Fields, a subsidiary of ERA Technology, is planning to market the technology, which came out of the AMULET (Advanced Materials for Ubiquitous Leading-edge Electromagnetic Technologies) project that also includes Queen Mary University of London, the National Physical Laboratory. The three-year project is backed by $3.4 million (?1.9 million) from the Government's Technology Strategy Board.

The company suggests the simulation software will decrease the BOMs and size of wireless products such as antennas, filters and phase shifters.

Vector Fields says metamaterials can provide a means to enhance the performance and size of wireless componentsfor example, by making antennas multifunctional, and reducing the size and cost of front-end filtering. The composite materials exhibit electromagnetic properties not normally found in naturally occurring materials. They generally include periodic elements, and gain their properties from their structure rather than directly from the constitutive properties of their individual components. The AMULET project is researching artificial materials and their application in the design and manufacture of next generation broadband, multifunctional, adaptive and conformal antennas for aerospace systems.

Vector Fields' Concerto design tool is the first commercial tool from the project. The company says it addresses one of the main problems with this category of simulation software, namely efficiency and speed.

Concerto exploits the periodic nature of passive metamaterial structures to minimize the computations required. The AMULET project will also be exploring the use of active metamaterials, and Vector Fields intends to add modeling support for these in future developments. Antennas are a major application for metamaterials, says Vector Fields. A typical example it gives is to use metamaterials to tailor the effective impedance of a substrate or ground plane, to improve an antenna's radiation pattern and efficiency.

Metamaterial structures could additionally be used to integrate common filtering requirements such as band pass filters into the 2D PCB structure, to reduce the cost and size of a wireless product's electronic BOM.

Another function, that is claimed to be easily achieved by metamaterials, is phase shifting, providing further design possibilities for wireless equipment. If the metamaterial structure is made active, then even more gains could be made, such as creating an antenna and filtering front end that could operate across multiple frequency bands.

- John Walko
EE Times

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