Telecommunications

Liquid crystal antenna promises faster, cheaper tracking of satellites

Liquid crystal antenna promise...
Onur Hamza Karabey and his prototype liquid crystal antenna
Onur Hamza Karabey and his prototype liquid crystal antenna
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Onur Hamza Karabey and his prototype liquid crystal antenna
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Onur Hamza Karabey and his prototype liquid crystal antenna
The prototype liquid crystal antenna, which may lead to faster-tracking, less expensive satellite antennas for use in moving vehicles
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The prototype liquid crystal antenna, which may lead to faster-tracking, less expensive satellite antennas for use in moving vehicles

Vehicles such as cars, ships and aircraft need to stay in stable contact with earth-orbiting satellites, in order for on-board functions like GPS, internet access and satellite television reception to work properly. As the vehicles move, their orientation to those satellites changes, so electronically-redirectable phased-array antennas are typically required. According to scientists at Germany's Technische Universität Darmstadt, however, these are "either very expensive or only sluggishly redirectable." That's why doctoral candidate Onur Hamza Karabey is working on a low-cost, fast-performing alternative - a liquid crystal antenna.

Karabey's current prototype incorporates four LCD cells. By varying the voltage applied to each of those cells, he has been able to selectively amplify radio signals coming from specific directions.

The prototype liquid crystal antenna, which may lead to faster-tracking, less expensive satellite antennas for use in moving vehicles
The prototype liquid crystal antenna, which may lead to faster-tracking, less expensive satellite antennas for use in moving vehicles

Because the antenna has no moving parts, it can align itself with a satellite within milliseconds. Karabey hopes that a commercial version could be manufactured using a process similar to that used for existing LCD monitors, which should help to keep costs down - he expects the device to sell for no more than 600 euro (US$790).

At about five millimeters in thickness, such antennas could also be fairly unobtrusively built into car roofs. It might also be possible to make them partially transparent, further opening up the potential applications.

Karabey and a research partner are now working on a 16 x 16-cell advanced prototype. He is also putting together a consortium of industry partners, to produce a commercial product.

Source: Technische Universität Darmstadt

1 comment
David Goadby
At a projected price of 600 Euros I cannot see many commercial takers for this technology. 6 Euros maybe. I hope it is a type on the price else this technology will end up in strictly military or large commercial use. Nice idea though.