A novel and low cost antenna design offering efficient performance across multiple frequency bands is available from Ploughshare Innovations – the company that licenses intellectual property developed by the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. With a bill of materials (BOM) cost that is expected to be under 10 cents in volume, the new component can replace several antennas, to save on both the BOM and manufacturing costs of new generations of radio-equipped products.
The patented new design concept was created to eliminate the proliferation of antennas on military equipment, and is now being offered for licensing and further development to suit commercial applications. Ploughshare expects the new intellectual property to be of interest to antenna manufacturers, radio equipment OEMs, designers supporting wireless chipsets with reference designs, and design consultants in the RF marketplace.
“The burgeoning demand for wireless communications has led to an array of standards for different applications, and considerable market pull to combine multiple protocols into one device,” says Toby Proctor of Ploughshare Innovations. “This novel antenna provides new flexibility for OEMs working in these market segments, and we are looking for a partner that has the capability to take a proven design concept and adapt it for commercial applications.”
Ploughshare’s wideband antenna is a cylindrical ‘top hat’ shape employing a novel capacitive coupling structure to provide good radio frequency (RF) performance characteristics across multiple bands. Its ability to be tuned to operate across a wide frequency band offers designers the potential to significantly reduce the size and build cost of many emergent types of communications and consumer equipment. It can also substantially reduce the design complexity that many electronics designers currently face as they attempt to integrate antennas for multiple RF protocols – and often antenna diversity as well – into increasingly smaller spaces.
One current circuit-board-mountable prototype version of the antenna has been produced and tested for operation over the 2.1 to 5 GHz band, where it offers an omnidirectional radiation pattern with a gain of 5 dBi, radiation efficiency of more than 95%, and a 1.92:1 VSWR (voltage standing wave ratio). This high level of performance is achieved by an antenna structure assembled from just four simple metal and dielectric parts with a BOM cost that is expected to be under 10 cents in volume.
The example design has an overall height of 1.5 cm and a footprint diameter of 2 cm. By varying the mechanical geometries and the properties of the dielectric material, the antenna’s propagation characteristics may be tuned for other RF bands of interest to OEMs.
In this form, Ploughshare believes the antenna has potential applications to simplify the design of a range of wireless communications infrastructure equipment such as routers and in-building basestations, or in industrial and consumer radio equipment such as smart utility meter reading terminals or media streaming devices in home entertainment systems.
Ploughshare has also produced a design prototype for a second version of the antenna that is capable of operating across an even wider range of frequencies – such as 100 MHz to 6 GHz. This example design has a height of 10 cm and a footprint diameter of 20 cm.