There are many conflicting constraints when it comes to any product design, but performance is always paramount in any antenna – let alone for 5G applications. New advanced materials now commercially available enable not only flexible and formable antennas, but those that are transparent as well. For 5G applications requiring more antennas closer to people in order to ensure fast line-of-sight connections, the capability to hide transparent antennas in plain sight or inconspicuously form them to blend in with 3D shaped architectural elements could fuel new product innovation. Before we jump into what materials 5G antennas are made from, let's cover another crucial topic:
What’s different about 5G?
The term ‘5G’ is commonly used referring to the 5th generation mobile network. 5G is the newest global wireless standard coming after previous standards (1G, 2G, 3G, 4G networks) and boasts higher bandwidth for data intensive applications. Among other benefits, 5G proports to enable a new and more robust network capable of supporting connectivity of an explosion of devices often referred to as IoT or "Internet of Things" - a network that can connect not only the endpoints typically used by people, but a broad range of new devices including home objects and machines of all kinds. Benefits of 5G are said to be:
- A more reliable network with increased availability and capacity
- Higher peak data speeds (multi-Gbps) ultra low latency
Unlike previous network generations, 5G networks utilize high frequency wavelengths (commonly referred to as mmWave) that operate in the 26 GHz up to 40 GHz range. At these high frequencies transmission losses have been encountered due to interference with object such as building, trees, and even rain so a higher power and more efficient power supply is required.
What Are Flexible 5G Antennas Made Of?
Despite the rapid escalation in wireless speed and the explosion in connected devices, the technology enabling all this connectivity – the antenna – has struggled to keep pace with these technological advancements. With the rollout of 5G necessitating more antennas closer to the point of use to achieve high-bandwidth line of sight connections and manufacturers seeking to retrofit IoT connectivity in a broad range of devices, have performance and design requirements finally exceeded the capabilities provided by traditional antenna materials?
5G antennas are often manufactured from advanced ceramic materials based on raw materials, most commonly: barium carbonate, silicon dioxide or yttrium oxide. It is important to review antenna material performance based several Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) including:
- dielectric constant (Dk)
- dissipation factor (Df)
- moisture absorption
While the ceramic materials listed above can address many of the traditional antenna KPIs, newly emerging materials coming to market that include partially transparent (silver or copper) and fully transparent (CNT Hybrids) 5G antenna material options demand other important KPIs factor into the mix. These characteristics enable antenna designers to hide antennas "in plain sight" and even build them into the architecture of building such as in glass windows, doors or even light fixtures:
But as mentioned at the opening of this blog post, with the paramount consideration being performance, how do flexible and transparent CNT Hybrid antennas compare to antennas made from traditional materials? When compared directly to copper, the CNT Hybrid antenna delivered better average gain across the full spectrum tested of 2400 – 2480 MHz.
With more antennas required, closer to the point of use, transparency, haze and flexibility are KPIs that have become very attractive to antenna designers. As with any manufactured product - antenna designers must design around which aspects their customers deem the most important. These fully transparent antenna material options (CNT Hybrids) enable antenna designers to deliver high performing antennas in all critical categories.