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Ultra Wideband (UWB) Antennas and Propagation

Antennas & Electromagnetics Research Group
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Traditional UWB antennas are bulky in size, which limits their applications. State-of-the-art radio systems require antennas that are:

  • Able to cover an ultra-wide range of operating frequency bands.
  • Compact and yet robust enough to be mounted in settings that range from satellites to the human body.

Our pioneering work in this area has led to the significant contributions to the UK Ofcom Spectrum Framework Review and the developments of new products and business opportunities, new technologies for assessing the Electromagnetic emission on the mobile handset and for smart meter deployment, and wearable antennas deployed in the battlefield to reduce the load and provide smart communications for dismounted soldiers.

Our Impact

The underpinning research has generated several impacts on public services, the environment and the economy.

Impact on public services

spectrum sensing antenna Spectrum sensing antenna system for OFCOM
The UK government made £17bn through the auction of 3G radio spectrum bands making it vital for it to monitor interference over this wide frequency band. The group, teamed with MASS Ltd, developed an Automatic Interference Monitoring System for Ofcom to examine the increasingly congested EM spectrum over 40 sites across the country during 2005 - 2007. This work has constituted a major contribution to the Ofcom Spectrum Framework Review Report published in April, 2008. This technology enables Ofcom to monitor/regulate the 3G radio bands for better mobile communication services.

Impact on the environment

With the integration of multiple functions on mobile phone handsets, the EM emission from different components has caused interference to the radio channels, which burdens wireless networks, causing excess power consumption. Sony-Ericsson, have funded the group to develop wideband test equipment for detecting EM interference on mobile terminals since 2007. This work has led to a patent application (EU Patent Application No: 08100712.2,). In 2008, Innovation China-UK funded the group to commercialise the developed technology in collaboration with Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, China. Two specialist test units were built and sold (one to Sony-Ericsson and the other to Wavetown Communications Ltd, China). The developed products enable the mobile handset manufacturers to assess their mobile phones and make sure the products are in ‘green’ operation.

Impact on economy (new products, business opportunities and licence)

  • Data communication over power-lines usually operates at low data rate due to the narrow carrier signal bandwidth. In the latest Pan-European drive for efficient use of the energy, a high data rate communication technology is required to realise the concept of smart power grid/metering in every household. The group teamed with Artimi Ltd. and subsequently SiConnect Ltd. and COE Plc. developing very high data rate powerline communication technology supported by DTI/ESPRC technology programme project in 2006. The technology developed with SiConnect was purchased by POEM Technologies Co Ltd, China in 2008 for exploitation in the Chinese market. In addition, the technology is being evaluated in a separate project funded by DECC (Department of Energy & Climate Change) and supported by EoN as a method to connect smart electrical appliances to the UK smart meter deployment rollout to reduce peak electricity load on the UK power distribution network .
  • Modern air-borne phased array radar systems require a compact broadband antenna array. With the funding from Selex-Galileo (UK), this work successfully exploited strong mutual coupling to construct a wide scanning planar phased array antenna with bandwidth of 4.5GHz -18GHz and scan angle up to 60°. It used novel electromagnetic analysis techniques combined with statistical and neural network methods to predict performance in a time frame suitable for industrial design. A 32 x 32 element fully active phased array based on this work was built by Selex-Galileo for the UK MoD.
  • A key component in broadband wireless communication systems is the broadband antenna covering all the required frequency bands. The group has helped Jaybeam Ltd (UK) in optimising a broadband base station antenna product. Jaybeam Ltd was lately bought by Amphenol Antenna Solutions.
  • A satellite employs many antennas for radio control and data link. QM has signed a license with SSBV Space & Ground Systems Ltd (formerly Satellite Services Ltd) to commercialise a compact broadband antenna for multiple functions on a small satellite under QM Innovations Ltd funding. The prototypes of the antenna will be deployed on the satellite - TechDemoSat-1 for the demonstration of UK Innovative Space Technologies, the project being led by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd with a total funding of £3.5M from the UK government and industry.
  • terTextile Body-mounted Antenna for Multiple Bands Operation
  • Body-centric wireless communications has abundant applications in personal healthcare, smart home, personal entertainment and identification systems, space exploration and military. The group has applied UWB radio technology to body centric communications and they have been awarded funding from Dstl on developing textile antennas for wideband communications in battlefields and NPL on developing the measurement standard for the next generation of wearable antennas.
  • UWB antenna technology is being used (via the Antenna groups EPSRC £1m Platform Grant “Antennas for Healthcare and Imaging” funding) to develop miniature body mounted pulse radar based motion tracking system (operating in the 6-10 GHz band) with 10mm position accuracy for sports medicine applications. This work bringing together the QMUL Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine and the Antenna Group, along with SME collaborators Mediwise Ltd and Shadow Robot Company Ltd.

    g Fabricated prototype of UWB tapered-slot wideband antenna for localisation of human hands

    A significant competitive advantage over existing systems is that our system is wireless, will be more robust and does not need the “studio” environment that optical systems require. Activities through the platform grant and Alomainy’s EPSRC first grant has initiated collaboration with Shadow Robot Company, an SME based in London, on providing accurate localisation systems using UWB technologies for limbs and joints mimicking in the robotic industry. The research team at QMUL and Shadow Robot were successful in securing a TSB grant for 12 months (Aug. 2013) to further investigate the research challenges behind UWB localisation of human hands and translate it into potential commercial applications.

Underpinning Research

Traditional UWB antennas are bulky in size, which limits their applications. Built on the Antenna group’s extensive expertise and experience in antenna engineering, Professor Xiaodong Chen and his team proposed a printed version of the UWB monopole for the first time, in which the ground plane is printed on the substrate offering a compact flat solution. Furthermore, the QMUL group identified the operating mechanism of planar UWB antennas as the combination of overlapping multiple resonances and travelling waves and this technical breakthrough has resulted in an explosion of research work on the printed version of UWB antennas worldwide [R1]. A variety of compact UWB antennas were developed in the group for various applications funded by the UK government and industry.

The principles of UWB antennas were further exploited for designing broadband couplers for deployment in ultra wideband power line communications under a DTI/EPSRC Technology Programme project. In addition, the concept of UWB antennas as a compact wideband array for airborne remote sensing was successfully developed by Parini & Chen via an industrial funded PhD studentship from Selex Galileo Ltd.

Lead by Prof. Yang Hao the group was the first to apply UWB technology for body area networks in collaboration with University of Birmingham, which led to a seminal book on the topic of body-centric communications [R2] and three EPSRC research grants (> £2M) both jointly held with Birmingham covering the period 2003-2013.

body mounted uwbPrototype miniture antennas mounted on human arm for limb location

The work [R3] was the first in the area of UWB for body-centric networks and is considered to be one of the most cited papers on UWB antennas effects on the human body propagation channel. The research has attracted early-stage researchers attending three EU supported doctoral schools held at Queen Mary (http://www.antennasvce.org/Community/Education/Courses/Locations, European School of Antennas).

The subsequent research activities in this field led to the design and evaluation of UWB antennas coupled with tunable electronic circuitry to be used in smart and cooperative personal and body area networks (EPSRC First Grant- Alomainy) The group has recently secured a TSB grant with the Shadow Robot Company for 12 months to further investigate the research challenges behind UWB localisation of human hands and translate it into potential commercial applications.

References

  • [R1]J . Liang, C.C. Chiau, X. Chen and C.G. Parini, ‘Study of a Printed Circular Disc Monopole Antenna for UWB Systems’, IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation, vol. 53, no. 11, 2005, pp. 3500-3504. (Citation from Google: >500)
  • [R2] P. S. Hall, Y. Hao (editor) “Antennas and Propagation for Body-Centric Wireless Networks”-2006, (Google Citation > 400)
  • [R3] A. Alomainy, A. Sani, A. Rahman, J. Santas and Y. Hao, “Transient Characteristics of Wearable Antennas and Radio Propagation Channels for Ultra Wideband Body-Centric Wireless Communications”, IEEE Transactions on Antennas & Propagation, Special Issue on Body-Centric Wireless Networks, Vol. 57, Issue 4, Part 1, April 2009, pp. 875-884. (Citation from Google: 69)

Grants

  • EPSRC grant: Gigabit Powerline Communications, (Chen: EP/D033950/1)
  • EPSRC grant: Wearable Antennas for Body-Centric Wireless Networks (Hao, EP/E030270/1)
  • EPSRC grant: iRFSim for BSNs -Imaging based subject-specific RF simulation environment for wearable and implantable wireless Body Sensor Networks (Hao, EP/E057624/1)
  • EPSRC grant: PATRICIAN: New Paradigms for Body Centric Wireless Communications at MM Wavelengths (Hao,EP/I009019/1)
  • EPSRC grant: Smart Antenna Systems for Cooperative Low-Power Wireless Personal and Body Area Networks (Alomainy, EP/H048154/1)

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