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Liquid Antennas Researched

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a way to make antennas from liquid metal injected into elastomeric microchannels.

According to Dr Michael Dickey, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State, the antenna "can be bent, stretched, cut and twisted--and will return to its original shape."

The liquid metal is an alloy made from gallium and indium, and remains liquid at room temperatures. Once the alloy has filled the channels, which are the width of a human hair, the surface of the alloy oxidizes creating a "skin" that holds the alloy in place.

"Because the alloy remains a liquid, it takes on the mechanical properties of the material encasing it," Dickey said.

This flexibility is particularly attractive for antennas, as the frequency of an antenna is determined by its shape. You can tune these antennas by stretching them.

While the alloy could be used to make rugged rollup-type antennas for consumer devices, the cost of the alloy makes it more likely the antennas will be used in applications where changes in the RF characteristics of the antenna are measured to determine the deformation of the antenna. One example of this would be antennas connected to a bridge or other structure to monitor how certain components expand or contract.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.