New antenna ‘could help advance 6G rollout’

Researchers in Glasgow said they have developed a new wireless communication technology that could help with the development of ultra-fast, software-controlled 6G networks.

Researchers in Glasgow have developed a new antenna that could push the development of 6G. Picture: Pixabay

The research team said it had developed “an innovative wireless communications antenna” capable of combining “the unique properties of metamaterials with sophisticated signal processing to deliver a new peak of performance.”

The antenna prototype developed by a team led by researchers from the University of Glasgow is known as a digitally coded dynamic metasurface antenna, or DMA, controlled through high-speed field-programmable gate array (FPGA).

The researchers said their DMA is the first in the world designed and demonstrated at the operating frequency of 60 GHz millimetre-wave (mmWave) band – the portion of the spectrum reserved by international law for use in industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) applications.

The DMA’s high-frequency operation is made possible by specially-designed metamaterials. The matchbook-sized prototype uses specially-designed, fully-tunable metamaterial elements which have been carefully engineered to manipulate electromagnetic waves through software control, creating an advanced class of leaky-wave antennas capable of high-frequency reconfigurable operation.

The researchers said that the antenna’s ability to operate in the higher mmWave band could enable it to become a key piece of hardware in the still-developing field of advanced beamforming metasurface antennas. 

It could also help future 6G networks deliver ultra-fast data transfer with high reliability, the researchers said.

Professor Qammer H Abbasi, co-director of the University of Glasgow’s Communications, Sensing and Imaging Hub, and one of the paper’s lead authors, said: “This meticulously designed prototype is a very exciting development in the field of next-generation adaptive antennas, which leaps beyond previous cutting-edge developments in reconfigurable programmable antennas. 

“In recent years, DMAs have been demonstrated by other researchers around the world in microwave bands, but our prototype pushes the technology much further, into the higher mmWave band of 60 GHz. That makes it a potentially very valuable  stepping stone towards new use cases of 6G technology and could pave the way for even higher-frequency operation in the terahertz range.”

Details of the research were published in the IEEE Open Journal of Antennas and Propagation.