Phase shifters have uses in both optics and radio communications. Wide bandwidths are required for applications such as radio astronomy (see the article on the CSIRO work in this week's RF Report), Ultra-Wideband (UWB) communications and imaging, satellites, radar and short range microwave systems. Phase shifters based on tuned circuits are limited in bandwidth. It's possible to use optical phase shifters for RF to attain bandwidths of 1 GHz or more, but these have been expensive to construct.
A team of researchers from the Universitat Politècnica de València's iTEAM (El Instituto de Telecomunicaciones y Aplicaciones Multimedia) in Spain has created the first, tunable broadband radio frequency (RF) photonic phase shifter. Because it is based on a single semiconductor element, the device will be cheap to manufacture and help save up to 80 percent on energy consumption.
"The relevance of this contribution is twofold. First, a 75 percent reduction--in comparison with previous designs--in the number of components needed will make it possible to save some of the space that the phase shifter occupies when it is integrated into a chip, and, consequently, to save in the production cost too," said Jose Capmany, head of UPV's iTEAM. "Moreover, reducing the number of active elements from five to one means a saving in energy consumption of up to 80 percent."
iTeam research Salvador Sales, commented, "Traditional phase shifters, based on microwave technologies, are limited in bandwidth and the possibility of tuning is also limited. By using photonic technology instead, we have been able to overcome both limitations."
This information is from a news releases from European Union's CORDIS. A paper describing the work was published in Optics Express.
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