Mobile phone antennas could become cheaper and smaller as a result of a new research programme into ceramic-based cavity antennas.
The research, carried out by ERA Technology, will seek to combine the efficiency and bandwidth of conventional antennas, with the compactness of current ceramic designs. The approach uses a relatively new material and process, low-temperature co-fired ceramic (LTCC), that will combine compactness, efficiency and low cost for a range of consumer and military applications.
The LTCC process is used to make complex 3D structures that contain conductors and active electronic circuits as well as radiating elements. The multi-layer structure of LTCC means that innovative printed structures, such as baluns and filters, can be achieved. Because the layers are produced in parallel, shorter manufacturing times, reduced costs and increased yields are also possible. Operating bandwidths better than 10% (± 5% around the specified operating frequency) can be achieved and configured for multiband applications, which is hard to achieve with existing ceramic antennas. Low cost phased arrays can also be fabricated using LTCC, where each ceramic tile contains both radiating elements and active circuitry.
Dr Robert Pearson, head of the ERA antenna business, said, ‘This new technology is a real breakthrough. Eventually we could see highly integrated commercial mobile, wireless and broadband communications products using these compact antennas. In military applications, it offers favourable radar and electromagnetic compatibility and can operate at high temperatures.’
Following initial studies, ERA Technology has won a contract valued at more than £100,000 from the ERA Foundation to undertake this research, and to produce fully workable prototypes.