Fractal Antenna Systems, Inc. announced it had filed for a patent for its "Fractal Plasmonic Surfaces" antenna. Fractal claims the antenna is meant to increase received signal strength regardless of environment or placement, avoiding problems like the those that plagued the iPhone 4's antenna and other smart phone antennas when the device is held a certain way. Inventor Nathan said, "There is a freedom of placement and usage that is unprecedented in new applications. Put simply, whenever you see a surface, you can now think 'antenna'."
As the name implies, the antenna uses fractals, complex geometric patterns exhibiting self-similarity. Fractal antennas are usually smaller than conventional antennas for a given frequency. This could make them useful for receiving VHF TV frequencies on tablets and perhaps even larger smart phones.
A Business Wire release on MarketWatch said "This system is a 'metamaterial' with electromagnetic attributes unattainable by other means." The the release, Nathan Cohen explains, "The FPS essentially is one tiny antenna that makes copies of itself across a layer using surface waves that physicists call 'plasmons'. There's no direct connection or feed. Each of these little antennas adds up to make the antenna analogy of a fly's eye. Covering one has no effect on the others. The problem of hand- smothering the antenna on smart phones, tablets, and other devices now becomes a thing of the past: the antenna has 'self configured'."
I was not able to obtain more details on the technology, but the preliminary program for the Antenna Systems 2011 conference had an abstract of Nathan Cohen's "Wider Bandwidth and Performance with Fractal Plasmonic Surfaces." It said, "Fractal plasmonic surfaces (FPS's) are sheets of intricate fractal patterns, closely arrayed for unique electromagnetic properties." The abstract said the presentation emphasized "detailing these FPS's parasitically to increase very wide bandwidths (5:1 or greater) and decreasing or removing the multiple power pattern lobes normally expected at higher frequencies." The abstract claimed, "FPS's offer a simple and powerful addition to the antenna toolbox, generating old antennas with new performance attributes, and new antennas in performance and form factors previously unrealized."
I'll be searching for more information on these antennas and if I find more information will report it here. While I can understand how an FPS could improve performance over a conventional antenna occupying the same area, I'm not as clear on how it performs with other objects nearby, like the circuit board or screen of a smart phone or tablet.