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Programmable and Reconfigurable Millimeter-Wave Circuits and Antennas

Dr. ChisumPrincipal Investigator: 

Dr. Chisum, Department of Electrical Engineering

Project Summary: 

This project aims to arbitrarily defined and fully programmable distributed circuits for microwave and millimeter-wave applications. There is a need for highly flexible radios and antennas which cover very wide ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum from HF to millimeter-waves—a tuning range of five orders of magnitude. Low-frequency digital circuits can utilize the field programmable gate array (FPGA) for flexible designs and real-time adaptation and even analog electronic circuits can be very flexible by changing transistor routing with high-quality switches. However, distributed microwave circuits which include transmission lines, filters, and antennas, are fundamentally different in that the operation is dependent upon the geometry (size and shape) of conductors. For this reason, there is not a programmable alternative to distributed microwave circuits. Recent developments in optically writable phase-change materials (PCM) including vanadium dioxide (VO2) and germanium telluride (GeTe) may enable a means for electrically programming arbitrary distributed microwave circuits such as infinitely tunable antennas and dynamically reconfigurable circuits which would be a game-changer for wideband software defined radios and spectrum sensing systems.

Student's Role:

An undergraduate may become involved in one or two tasks depending on their aptitude and past experience. The first task associated with this project is high-frequency wafer probe station measurements of the distributed circuits in the PCM. This task will include a large suite of parametric measurements in which we study the effect of various process parameters on the distributed circuit performance. This is a task ideally suited for an undergraduate student who would be trained by Chisum’s research group to perform measurements on a state-of-the-art microwave and millimeter wave wafer probe station. They would learn to calibrate the network analyzer, validate measurement repeatability, programmatically control the measurement and record the data, import it into data processing software such as Matlab, and with the assistance of my group, compare the measurement to simulation. The emphasis would be on how measurements change across the parametric suite of measurements, and only minimal hardware proficiency is assumed of the student. An advanced student may also become involved in the second tasks of design. In particular, they may use the Ansys HFSS electromagnetic simulation tool to design programmable antennas in this new material system.