Electronics

Fingernail-sized radar chip could be used in future smartphones

Fingernail-sized radar chip co...
The "smallest complete radar system in the world" could be used in the automotive industry, robotics and smartphones (Image: Shutterstock)
The "smallest complete radar system in the world" could be used in the automotive industry, robotics and smartphones (Image: Shutterstock)
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The "smallest complete radar system in the world" could be used in the automotive industry, robotics and smartphones (Image: Shutterstock)
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The "smallest complete radar system in the world" could be used in the automotive industry, robotics and smartphones (Image: Shutterstock)
The radar chip (pictured) is being touted as “the smallest complete radar system in the world”
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The radar chip (pictured) is being touted as “the smallest complete radar system in the world”

Research based in Frankfurt, Germany, and funded by the European Union, has resulted in a new low-cost, fingernail-sized radar chip package that could be implemented in a variety of areas, including the automotive industry, robotics and smartphones.

The chip was developed under the “Silicon-based ultra-compact cost-efficient system design for mm-wave sensors” (or Success) consortium, and is believed to be the smallest complete silicon-based system-on-chip (SoC) device for radar able to operate at frequencies beyond 100 GHz.

“As far as I know, this is the smallest complete radar system in the world,” said Professor Christoph Scheytt, coordinator of the project on behalf of IHP Microelectronics in Frankfurt, Germany. “There are other chips working at frequencies beyond 100 GHz addressing radar sensing, but this is the highest level of integration that has ever been achieved in silicon.”

The radar chip (pictured) is being touted as “the smallest complete radar system in the world”
The radar chip (pictured) is being touted as “the smallest complete radar system in the world”

The chip package measures 8 x 8 mm (0.3 x 0.3 inches), operates at 120 GHz, and can calculate the distance of an object up to around 3 meters (10 feet) away, to an accuracy of within 1 mm. It can also detect moving objects, and their velocity, by using the Doppler effect.

In order to produce a radar system so small, the researchers needed to overcome significant technical challenges. This involved testing multiple antennae to maintain an acceptable size, while also avoiding unwanted electromagnetic radiation and loss of signal due to weather and other conditions. Additionally, a self-test system was also adopted, enabling technicians to easily check the chip is performing as it should.

The winning combination of tiny size and inexpensive manufacturing process, which should allow the chip to be produced for roughly €1 (US$1.29) per unit, opens up possibilities for its implementation in several areas, such as automatic door system controls, cars, robotics, and even smartphones.

The miniature radar chip is the product of three years research, by a total of nine academic and industrial partners based across Europe, and has received EUR €3 million (roughly US$3.9 million) in funding from the European Commission. The Success consortium is now seeking to use the technology commercially, and companies including Bosch, Silicon Radar, and Hightec are looking toward using the chip.

Source: CORDIS

17 comments
Joel Detrow
Will smartphones never stop getting more capable?
Pikeman
How many can function before they are jamming each other?
Martin Hone
Interesting, but maybe a solution looking for a problem ?
Rt1583
@ Joel - Yep. As soon as there is no more room for the actual phone function.
livin_the_dream
@Martin Hone surely automatic doors are the problem being solved? I mean currently the infra-red detects only movement and frequently people are hit by the doors if they move slowly, old or less able people being an example? Also useful for automatic parking cars, collision avoidance, pre-emeptive air-bag/seatbelt activation. The list extensive if you think about it.
BZD
I want one to combine with some Lego and a laser. Should make for a pretty fun anti-mosquito (with some safety measures to make sure no harm comes to non-targets).
George Ganak
Is this the essential ingredient to allow infotainment in automobiles while the pilot or driver is otherwise engadged? Smartphones will become an essential ingredient in future generations of auto's and trucks.
Grunchy
So cool! Combined with the 3-axis accelerometer on a chip and you've got really cheap positional and attitude awareness. Awareness to 3m distance is perfect for a slow moving toy. There are going to be some really really cool autonomous bots coming based on this: better robotic vacuum cleaners for one. It's important to foresee the evil purposes this will be used for as well. I could easily imagine this technology helping to enable tiny little assassin robots that can fly in hard and fast and shoot poisoned darts, then self destruct.
Jeff Haddrick
Will an app be able to use this chip to create a, very hard to detect, radar detector?
Slowburn
re; Jeff Haddrick Most police are using lidar instead of radar both to defeat radar detectors and prevent claims that it was a different vehicle or the top of the tires that the speed was taken from. They also said something about safety.