Ken O's mini radio antenna, at less than one-tenth of an inch on a computer chip, is closer to achieving ultra small radios for military surveillance use.
PRESENT POSITION: Professor of electrical and computer engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville
DEGREES: B.S., M.E., and Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science, MIT
HOW YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK WHEN AT COCKTAIL PARTIES: I'm trying to build a radio that's really hard to detect both physically and electronically.
WHAT IS REQUIRED TO BUILD THIS ULTRASMALL RADIO? We need circuits that work with the on-chip antennas. Our previous work on wireless clock distribution demonstrated an intra-chip 15-GHz wireless link; and when we proposed this about eight years ago, people thought we were crazy since others were struggling with 1-GHz CMOS circuits, and the concept of integrating antennas seemed so difficult. Now, we're working on building a true single-chip radio working at 24 GHz. In two years, we shall have a fully functional radio.
WHAT MAKES THEM HARD TO DETECT? The on-chip antenna makes the system small so that it is difficult to visually detect. And using spread-spectrum techniques, information is carried in a bandwidth of frequency; we are trying to spread the information thin across a large bandwidth so that it can't also be electronically detected.
HOW FAR CAN THE ANTENNAS DETECT COMMUNICATION? Up to 5m comfortably, but we're working to increase it to 10-20m.
WHAT APPLICATIONS ARE THE RADIOS USED FOR? By pairing the radios with sensors, they could be used for military surveillance or border monitoring, as well as infrastructure monitoring and disaster recovery. In the medical field, radios could be mounted on the face of paraplegics to communicate via twitches in the face.
HAS THIS RESEARCH BEEN DONE BEFORE? There is work going on at UC Berkeley, called the Smartdust Project (http://rbi.ims.ca/3852-536), but they've been using light to communicate; we are using radio frequency (microwave).
For Ken O's paper on on-chip antennas, go to http://rbi.ims.ca/3852-539. Contact Ken O at firstname.lastname@example.org.