Technology, Innovation

A new design could bring Internet access to the entire globe

More than three billion people don’t have Internet access across the globe – imagine connecting to the web just by attaching a thin panel to the back of a tablet. Professor George Eleftheriades and his team in The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering have created a metamaterial surface – an engineered material not found in nature. This surface focuses electromagnetic waves into a concentrated beam optimizing the way antenna works. The work was originally published in the journal “Nature Communications.” The prototype is an inexpensive, thin antenna similar to a patterned ceiling tile allowing the transmission of a signal, such as broadband internet directly from space. “The beams that come off of this surface are like lasers – we can send this energy very far, maybe even all the way to a satellite in orbit,” said Eleftheriades in a statement.

Cavity-excited Huygens’ metasurface antenna. (Courtesy of: www.Nature.com)

Cavity-excited Huygens’ metasurface antenna. (Courtesy of: www.Nature.com)

A typical satellite requires a tripod-shaped structure at its centre, helping maintain a certain distance from the surface to focus beams. The satellite therefore results in a bulky and large set up. The leading-edge technology in the new design makes a thin, flat and uniformly illuminated antenna compared to a bulky rooftop satellite dish. “With this design, we’ve optimized the way the antenna works to overcome the traditional compromise between the size of low-profile aperture antennas, and the strength of their beams,” said Eleftheriades. Currently their structure is two centimetres thick, and their goal is to design a thinner and more sharply focused panel. “Many companies are working toward providing Internet to the rest of the world,” explained Eleftheriades. “They’re looking for low-cost, low-profile, antennas to communicate with statellites, and they have to be portable. We think this design is a step toward that.”