A cheaper, easier much smaller cellphone antenna

Casey Johnston

An unusual method of creating antennas has allowed a group of researchers to make tiny versions only 1.8 times the theoretical size limit of an antenna. Scientists from the University of Michigan use a process that grafts a gold antenna onto a coin-sized, dome-like substrate that can operate in mobile phone frequencies.

The conducting part of the antenna resembles a short, multi-armed helix projected on the surface of a half-sphere, one of the leading design styles for making compact antennas that can still conduct signal reliably. Until now, scientists had to manufacture the antennas by bending wire around a sphere, which was inexact, time-consuming, and expensive.

With the new method, the researchers press a rounded substrate covered in a thin layer of gold against a thin antenna pattern, also done in gold. The extra gold layer is then etched away around the antenna pattern by plasma, and gold plating is used to beef up the gold antenna threads if needed.

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