BOSTON, December 15, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Metamaterials, which for many years have been largely confined to the realm of science, are now poised for commercialization in several important applications. The IDTechEx report “Metamaterials Markets 2023-2043: Optical and Radio-Frequency”, investigates the possibilities within this new material technology.
A particularly important new application of electromagnetic metamaterials is to support the deployment of high-frequency telecommunications, such as millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G and even THz. High frequencies can enable faster data transfer and therefore an improved user experience. However, at high frequencies, there is a large loss of energy over long distances. These problems can be further exacerbated by obstacles common in urban environments. As a result, there is a need for a low-power device that can facilitate the delivery of high-frequency signals in crowded environments.
Metamaterials offer a possible solution by enabling the development of “Reconfigurable Intelligent Systems”, RIS for short. These systems integrate electronic components to reflect radio waves in specific, configurable directions – allowing signals to bounce around obstacles, overcoming the problems of signal blocking. RIS may even be able to autonomously track users for directed communications, allowing for higher signal quality and improved security by reducing the likelihood of a connection by unauthorized users. These benefits that RIS is proposing have caught the attention of telecom providers like Verizon, who in 2020 partnered with RIS developer Pivotal Commware to provide their products to support mmWave 5G deployment.
If the only goal was to beam a signal in a certain direction, then this could be achieved with conventional relay stations. However, RIS offer two key advantages – namely, their low power consumption and small form factor. This allows them to be used on a large scale in areas where a traditional relay station would not fit, e.g. B. above traffic lights at crowded intersections or under the ceiling in a stadium, greatly improving 5G coverage in crowded environments. The low power requirement also significantly reduces the cost of running a widespread network, and it may even be possible to power some RIS devices via built-in energy harvesting systems such as solar photovoltaics.
Large-scale deployment for RIS would only be possible if each device could be manufactured inexpensively – so the materials used and the manufacturing process are critical. RIS developers such as Greenerwave and Pivotal Commware have therefore designed their devices to be compatible with traditional PCB components and manufacturing processes. Relying on well-founded industries ensures that large-scale manufacturing can be done cost-effectively.
The devices discussed above contained electronic components to actively control signals; however, electronic components are not a requirement. A key feature of metamaterials is their ability to reflect at otherwise unattainable angles, and as such can potentially be used as “mirrors” to passively reflect signals around corners. Transparent metamaterial films that possess this functionality represent a significant material opportunity as they can be integrated into existing structures such as windows or walls. An example of such a product will be demonstrated by Meta Materials Inc and Sekisui, who collaborated in 2021 to develop a transparent conductive reflector film capable of reflecting signals for improved mmWave signal coverage.
Only reflection has been considered so far, but metamaterials can also improve high-frequency telecommunications by improving the transmission of signals through windows. Low emissivity glass contains a very thin transparent layer of metal oxide to block UV and infrared radiation; Such glass is found in the windows of ordinary homes, shops and in the windshields of cars. It is becoming more common for consumers to choose low emissivity glass to improve energy efficiency and minimize utility bills. However, these also have the effect of blocking wireless communication signals and thus causing poor phone reception. Integrating a transparent metamaterial film can significantly improve the strength of high-frequency signals inside buildings. In fact, such high frequency signals experience particularly significant attenuation and may require metamaterials for viable indoor telephone reception.
5G has been commercialized since 2019, but mmWave has been hampered by the high cost of implementation. mmWave’s short range requires the installation of large numbers of base stations, making it expensive and unattractive. However, metamaterial-based RIS could revolutionize the market by enabling affordable, widespread coverage and paving the way for future high-frequency telecommunications. The IDTechEx report “Metamaterials Markets 2023-2043: Optical and Radio-Frequency” analyzes the potential of metamaterial-based RIS in depth to assess the potential of this emerging technology to support high-frequency telecommunications.
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SOURCE IDTechEx Ltd