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by Sofia Villegas
15 April 2024
Scottish breakthrough a ‘valuable stepping stone’ for 6G networks

Scottish university research could enable next-generation communications networks | Alamy

Scottish breakthrough a ‘valuable stepping stone’ for 6G networks

The University of Glasgow has developed a next-generation antenna which could help deliver ultra-fast and software-controlled 6G networks, researchers claim.

The coded dynamic metasurface antenna (DMA) is said to combine the properties of metamaterials with sophisticated signal processing to deliver a new peak of performance.

It is the first-ever wireless antenna capable of operating at a frequency of 60 GHz millimetre-wave (mmWave) band.

This property “makes it a potentially very valuable stepping stone towards new use cases of 6G technology and could pave the way for even higher-frequency operation in the terahertz range,” Professor Qammer H Abbasi explained in a paper about the development.

According to researchers, the device could become key hardware in the field of advanced beamforming metasurface antennas.

The DMA uses high-speed interconnects with simultaneous parallel control of individual, specially designed metamaterial elements, via high-speed field-programmable gate array (FPGA) programming.

These materials are able to manipulate electromagnetic waves through software control, creating an advanced class of leaky-wave antennas capable of high-frequency reconfigurable operation.

The matchbook-sized prototype can also shape its communications beams and create multiple beams at once, switching in nanoseconds to ensure network coverage remains stable.

Dr Masood Ur Rehman, who led the antenna development, said: “6G has the potential to deliver transformative benefits across society. Our high-frequency intelligent and highly adaptive antenna design could be one of the technological foundation stones of the next generation of mmWave reconfigurable antennas.

“The programmable beam control and beam-shaping of the DMA could help in fine-grained mmWave holographic imaging as well as next-generation near-field communication, beam focusing, and wireless power transfer.”

It is claimed that the prototype could also support patient monitoring by helping to track their vital signs and movements, help autonomous vehicles and drones navigate safely as well as enhance sensing and communication devices within high-resolution radars.

The Pakistan-UK Education Gateway (DePWiSeN project) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council funded the research.

The paper, named 60 GHz Programmable Dynamic Metasurface Antenna (DMA) for Next-Generation Communication, Sensing, and Imaging Applications: From Concept to Prototype, was published in the IEEE Open Journal of Antennas and Propagation.

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