Metamaterial design tool could cut size and cost of RF products

RF designers may find it easier to work with so-called meta-materials thanks to the introduction of a RF simulator that understands how they behave.

Meta-materials are composites that exhibit electromagnetic properties not normally found in natural materials. The properties rely on the meta-material’s repeating structures, which can be adjusted to provide various characteristics useful in antenna and other RF design disciplines.

For example, meta-materials could be used to tailor the effective impedance of a substrate or ground plane, to improve an antenna's radiation pattern and efficiency. They could be used to integrate common filtering requirements such as band-pass filters into a PCB, or to shift the phase of a signal. Active meta-materials could be used to build a multi-frequency antenna and filtering front end.

The simulator has been developed by Vector Fields, a Cobham subsidiary, as part of its work for the Advanced Materials for Ubiquitous Leading-edge Electromagnetic Technologies (AMULET) project. AMULET is researching artificial materials for use in broadband, multifunctional, adaptive and conformal antennas for aerospace systems. The project runs for three years, and has received £1.9m investment from the UK's Technology Strategy Board. It is led by ERA Technology, another Cobham company, with the National Physical Laboratory, Queen Mary University of London and Vector Fields.

Vector Fields’ Concerto high-frequency electromagnetic design tool can simulate the behaviour of meta-material structures. To speed up its simulations, the tool recognises the periodic nature of passive meta-materials to reduce the number of calculations in a simulation run

The AMULET project will also investigate the use of active meta-materials. Vector Fields intends to support these materials in future.

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