Shape-shifting antennas may find applications in public safety and military

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Washington, December 2 (ANI): A research from North Carolina State University, US, is revolutionizing the field of antenna design, by creating shape-shifting antennas that open the door to a host of new uses in fields ranging from public safety to military deployment.

Modern antennas are made from copper or other metals, but there are limitations to how far they can be bent - and how often - before they break completely.

NC State scientists have created antennas using an alloy that "can be bent, stretched, cut and twisted - and will return to its original shape," said Dr. Michael Dickey, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State and co-author of the research.

The antenna consists of liquid metal injected into elastomeric microchannels.

The antennas can be deformed (twisted and bent) since the mechanical properties are dictated by the elastomer and not the metal.

The researchers make the new antennas by injecting an alloy made up of the metals gallium and indium, which remains in liquid form at room temperature, into very small channels the width of a human hair.

The channels are hollow, like a straw, with openings at either end, but can be any shape.

Once the alloy has filled the channel, the surface of the alloy oxidizes, creating a "skin" that holds the alloy in place while allowing it to retain its liquid properties.

"Because the alloy remains a liquid, it takes on the mechanical properties of the material encasing it," Dickey said.

For example, an antenna in a flexible silicone shell could be used to monitor civil construction, such as bridges.

As the bridge expands and contracts, it would stretch the antenna - changing the frequency of the antenna, and providing civil engineers information wirelessly about the condition of the bridge.

Flexibility and durability are also ideal characteristics for military equipment, since the antenna could be folded or rolled up into a small package for deployment and then unfolded again without any impact on its function.

According to Dickey, these new applications are the most likely uses for the new antennas, since the alloy is more expensive than the copper typically used in most consumer electronics that contain antennas. (ANI)

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