Thursday, October 21, 2010

Good Bye Dish Anntena: Flat Antennas As Satellite TV Signal Receivers

With the advent of the Satellite TV age our eyes have got accustomed to seeing satellite dishes on roof tops, near windows in apartment buildings and even those compact dishes on some cars and camper vans. These are actually a kind of nuisance to the surrounding considering the fact that they spoil the beauty of a structure and not to mention the amount of dirt they collect over time and people don't even bother to clean them.

But with a new technology developed by a recent PhD graduate from The Netherlands University of Twente it is days over for the dish antenna. Marcel Van de Burgwal has designed a microchip that allows for a grid array of almost flat antennas to receive satellite signals. With the inspiration from the LOFAR project which uses an array of antennas located across the northeast Dutch countryside linked together to form a virtual radiotelescopy dish.

Marcel's system would not need to be aimed like a dish antenna needs to be. Instead, the antenna array would electronically aim itself to get the best reception. 
The big leap here is in the working, the fact that unlike LOFAR which needs complex processors, large numbers of calculations and fast communications which is quite energy hungry and cannot be used for smaller application, This system uses multiple smaller microprocessors which are embedded on a single chip. Moreover these microprocessors turn off when not needed  thus consuming less energy. This results into a whole computer network that takes up just a few square millimeters in area. 
As a result TV or radio receiver are defined by software instead of the analog crystals and classic coils. 
"Software defined radio may seem much more complex, but we can pack so much computing power into the space taken up by, for example, a coil that it more than repays the effort", Van de Burgwal said.
With this we can have the power of a dish receiver in a small chip that could be embedded in portable digital devices like Smart phone, media players etc. The application potential is huge, you can figure it out yourself.
The Technology is being further refined by  Recore systems which works in collaboration with the University of Twente in the Netherlands and Technical University of Delft.


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