Engineers from the North Carolina State University (NCSU) were able to design a liquid metal antenna that may soon reshape the face of the mobile device world.
NCSU researchers have long shown a special interest in liquid metal devices, but they failed to create a practical one because the devices need external pumps which are hard to embed into a small electronic system.
But the new antenna can be controlled through voltage alone. Researchers recently found that voltage can influence the shape of liquid metal. Positive voltage expands the material, while negative voltage contracts it, scientists explained.
The new antenna was designed by the NCSU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a related review was recently published in the Journal of Applied Physics.
The research team explained that voltage alone could shape liquid metal due to its electrochemical properties. These features allow the substance to either flow into or withdraw from a conducting path, or capillary.
Scientists explained that the trick resides with the liquid metal’s surface tension. A positive voltage lowers it by applying on the surface an oxide, which can later be removed by a negative voltage that will also hike surface tension.
Researchers compared the process of pushing liquid metal into or pulling it out of a capillary to “an electrochemical pump.” Traditional antennas use electronic switches that act like solid pumps. Yet, the new antenna is both more flexible and powerful than traditional ones.
Prof. Michael Dickey explained that liquid antenna can “tune over a range of at least two times greater than systems using electronic switches.”
Currently, the team is pondering on the various applications their device may have. They say that liquid antennas may substantially reduce the size of the mobile devices and may have wider applications in the Internet of Things project.
They also believe that the need for wider bandwidths we currently face would not necessarily mean larger antennas. Liquid metal antennas are both powerful and easily to be miniaturized.
Also, the new antenna would solve the “death grip” problem encountered by older mobile phone devices when they were held by the bottom and suddenly lost network connection.
However, scientists admitted that there is still a lot to learn about liquid metal antennas and their tuning power. Also, they said that they were working to improve the small device’s efficiency and speed.
As a follow up, the team plans to find new ways to make liquid material more stable and able to change shape not only in one-dimensional surfaces but also in two-dimensional ones.
Image Source: Phys.org