The complexity of communication radios and protocols has skyrocketed in recent decades in response to an ever-growing need for data bandwidth and spectral efficiency. However, the antenna technology used to transmit this information has not kept pace with the hardware and software used to drive them, and is now one of the “dumbest” links in an otherwise “smart” communications chain. Most communication antennas are large metal dishes or rods, which are either fixed in place, or rely on heavy and slow rotation stages.
Metamaterial-enabled communication antennas have the potential to eliminate this bottleneck by creating a new generation of lightweight, high-gain, rapidly reconfigurable antennas. Software can be used to directly define nearly any desired transmit and receive configuration. This Software Defined Antenna (SDA) is a synergistic match for the software defined radios (SDR) which are finding widespread usage as spectrum continues to be a increasingly scarce resource.
The metamaterials SDA is small and lightweight, making it an ideal choice where mechanically gimbaled dishes are unsuitable. Furthermore, unlike bulky and power-hungry phased arrays with a similar level of reconfigurability, the SDA leverages off-the-shelf components and standard circuit fabrication processes to create a cost-effective product targeted for consumer and enterprise markets.
Many terrestrial wireless applications can make use of metamaterials technology, from tactical battlefield communications, to cellular systems and high frequency backhaul, and even enterprise Wi-fi systems.