A Breakthrough to Protect Your Communications in a Noisy Environment

The human identity has a lot of unique aspects to it, but honestly speaking, there is nothing that stands out more than our pledge to grow under all circumstances. This pledge, in particular, has orchestrated some huge milestones for the world, with technology emerging as quite a major member of the group. The reason why we hold technology in such a high regard is, by and large, predicated upon its skill-set, which ushered us towards a reality that nobody could have ever imagined otherwise. Nevertheless, if we look beyond the surface for a second, it will become clear how the whole runner was also very much inspired from the way we applied those skills across a real world environment. The latter component, in fact, did a lot to give the creation a spectrum-wide presence, and as a result, initiate a full-blown tech revolution. Of course, this revolution eventually went on to scale up the human experience through some outright unique avenues, but even after reaching so far ahead, this revolution will somehow continue to bring forth the right goods. The same has turned more and more evident in recent times, and assuming one new DISCOVERY ends up with the desired impact, it will only put that trend on a higher pedestal moving forward.

The researching team at John Hopkins University has successfully developed small and lightweight reflective surfaces that are meant to rethink communications in crowded environments, and they will do so by providing unprecedented control over electromagnetic signals, like radio waves. In order to achieve a similar objective, the scientists have previously used repeaters, which are basically electronic devices that receive a signal and retransmit it. These repeaters would help communication signals cover longer distances and get around obstacles, but recent observations have predicted a decline for the technology. Hence, for the sake of a smooth transition, the team in focused has leveraged the power of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS) to put-together a successor. But what are RIS and how do they actually function? Well, they are programmable surface structures that can reflect, redirect and modulate electromagnetic signals to boost data rates and achieve other desirable behaviors. However, as promising as it sounds, the RIS technology does have some notable shortcomings. You see, the stated technology has long preferred metasurfaces to support its operation, a type of material that uses patterning or microstructuring on a surface to influence the behavior of electromagnetic waves. That being said, any attempts at collaboration between the two systems has, so far, struggled against undesirable characteristics of metasurfaces, including signal loss and the need to include a resonant material in the design. Fortunately enough, the researchers at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) have devised one remedy in a dynamic cascaded metasurface, which promises to overcome the given challenges, while simultaneously augmenting the reflective behaviors of RIS. Talk about how it will deliver on its promised value proposition; the setup will look to separately control the magnitude and phase of an electromagnetic wave. This will help metasurface adapt to the signal in many ways for situation-specific demands. Not just that, the new setup flattens the uneven signal loss that metasurfaces were previously known for, and includes two resonant materials to circumvent the shortcomings of using just one.

“When you can separately control phase and magnitude, it gives you ultimate control over the reflection behaviors of the metasurface,” said Tim Sleasman, a research scientist at APL and the lead author of the paper. “As a signal passes through the metasurface, it interacts with each of the layers on the way in and as it’s reflected out. These interactions are very complex. The layers essentially talk to one another and behave as though they know the others are there. As the signal passes through, each of the layers operates on it, creating the desired behavior.”

Complementing its technological brilliance is the material’s small size and lightweight nature. With such a convenient structure, we can attach these printed circuit boards to surfaces around a city to aid something like the bandwidth of cell or Wi-Fi signals.

“While our focus has been on radio frequency applications, the concepts and techniques we have introduced hold value across a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said David Shrekenhamer, manager of the Physics, Electronic Materials and Devices program at APL. “At higher frequencies, materials science like this effort becomes a crucial consideration.”


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