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Virginia Tech Invents New WiFi Antenna

Virginia Tech issued a press release titled Electrical engineers invent wireless Internet connection. Knowing that wireless Internet connections have been around for a few years, I had to check it out. The invention turns out to be a modified helical antenna that generates "non-linear polarization." Broadcast engineers usually call non-linear polarization circular or elliptical polarization, depending on whether the polarization is equal at all polarizations (circular) or unequal (elliptical).

Researchers at the Virginia Tech Antenna Group started investigating helix antennas more than 10 years ago, but more recently studied other size-reduced helix antennas, trying many different variations. "One geometric form proved to hold the secret to success," said the new antenna's inventor, Warren Stutzman from Virginia Tech's Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "We modified the helix windings to have hairpin type bends internal to the surface of the conventional helix. This essentially fools the helix into thinking it is larger than it really is. The net result was an antenna that occupies 70 percent less volume than the conventional helix. This was the first major improvement to the helix antenna since it was invented over 50 years ago."

The Virginia Tech press release contains many glowing reports on the performance of the antenna, with quotes like this one from StayOnline COO Steve Berrey: "The stub-loaded helix antenna has expanded both our company's reach and that of wireless technology. It has truly been the key to our success because of its non-linear polarization properties that virtually eliminate all 'dead spots' in a wireless network. This has greatly enhanced StayOnline's competitive edge in the industry. StayOnline's clients--primarily hospitality providers--are consistently awed by the stability of their wireless signal and the low drop-out rate they and their guests experience."

A small picture of the antenna is available with the Virginia Tech press release.