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Transparent Antennas: How They Solve Wireless Design Challenges

August 22, 2022

A clear way to design and engineer new antenna applications without boundaries

How many applications could benefit from transparent peel-and-stick antennas? Based on the proliferation of interconnected devices, the rapid adoption of 5G, and the massive jump in wireless capability with Wi-Fi 6, the answer may be counted in the millions, if not billions.

Consider these facts:

  1. Since the 5G network went live in the United States, the number of 5G service subscriptions have skyrocketed from 1.3 million at the start in 2019 to at least 74 million today. In fact, 5G is scaling faster than any other mobile technology generation, according to the new Ericsson Mobility Report. 5G mobile subscriptions are expected to hit 4.4 billion globally in 2027, up from a projected 1 billion by the end of 2022. At the same time, the 5G subscription penetration in North America will reach 90%.
  2. The growing 5G and Wi-Fi 6 infrastructures, in turn, fuel the market for the Internet of Things (IoT). Although the exact number is hard to pinpoint, some estimates count 13 billion active IoT devices worldwide today and project more than a doubling by 2030.

These systems and applications owe their effectiveness to highly efficient antennas with small form factors and low loss tangent at 10-100 GHz frequencies.

New demands require a new type of antenna

But the requirements of 5G applications — such as the need to place antennas closer to people to ensure fast line-of-sight connections — demand more to take product design and functionality to the next level. As the antennas grow in number, product makers need to find a solution that let them design and integrate functional antennas without sacrificing performance or appearance.

That’s when transparent antennas enter the picture. CHASM™’s new advanced materials have enabled the development of next-generation antennas: flexible, formable, and transparent. The peel-and-stick quality alone fundamentally transforms the way designers and engineers can approach antenna design.

In this post, we’ll provide a quick overview of this groundbreaking technology, including:

  • Limitations of current solutions
  • Introducing transparent antennas
  • Why they bring such flexibility

Limitations of current solutions

Electronics design

Conventional designs for traditional electronics like computers and cell phones typically feature a metallic antenna that runs around the outer rim of the case. Product designers and engineers have to grapple with several challenges that can affect the device’s performance — antenna shape, material composition, and placement within an enclosure all have to be carefully weighed along with the required frequency.

In other words, the limitations of traditional antennas result in “boxy” electronic devices. Now, designers search for better flexibility to marry aesthetics and function in the development of interconnected appliances, lighting fixtures, and more.

5G antenna design

Advanced ceramic materials based on raw materials such as barium carbonate and silicon dioxide are used to manufacture 5G antennas. But while they meet certain Key Performance Indicators, they do not address KPIs that have increasingly become highly attractive to antenna designers and that speak to the material’s ability to be “hidden in plain sight”: transparency, haze, and flexibility.

Introducing transparent antennas

The potential of transparent 5G antennas is more than a hypothesis. A national wireless carrier is only one of countless companies that leverage that very technology to, in the carrier’s case, deploy municipal Wi-Fi.

Unlike traditional antennas that, by design, cannot be easily replaced or installed, these next-generation antennas are free from such constraints. If a transparent antenna needs to be moved to a more optimal location, it works like a sticker — peel it off and stick it on. The antennas blend into their surroundings as a result of the AgeNT™ transparent Carbon Nanotube (CNT) Hybrid material.

CHASM™ invented AgeNT™ with its pioneering use of CNTs to create novel transparent conductive films (TCFs). The introduction of CNTs — one of the strongest materials known — brings a range of unique properties to AgeNT™, including:

  • Mechanical reinforcement for the more fragile AgNW and MM structures
  • Electrical redundancy
  • Excellent connectivity to the TCF surface
  • Environmental protection for the underlying AgNW and MM layers

Also, when compared directly to copper, the CNT Hybrid antenna delivers better average gain across the full spectrum tested of 2400 – 2480 MHz.

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Why they bring such flexibility

Consider three TV antennas made with the same circuit design on clear plastic film but with different conductor materials. All three — copper, silver, and AgeNT™ TCF — proved in a test to provide similar TV reception. But there was one characteristic that made one of the materials stand out. Unlike copper and silver, AgeNT™ TCF is invisible.

The transparency of AgeNT™ TCF gives engineers and product designers brand-new options. When antennas can be hidden in plain sight, placed on displays and windows, or seamlessly molded to blend in with 3D-shaped architectural elements, it eliminates old design constraints and fuels product innovation with unique bandwidths and tailored directionality.

Transformative impact

The implications are felt across industries as AgeNT™ overcomes a fundamental challenge to fully implementing 5G, smart cities, and safer and more autonomous vehicles. The introduction of transparent phased array antennas also promises to transform diverse markets — beamforming 5G antennas within home windows and transparent routers, vehicle lights and windshields, glass structures within buildings, or even over satellite solar cells.

Join us

Do you want the future to come sooner and delight your customers with next-generation solutions? Become a Chasm partner. Contact us today to learn more.

 

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