The world’s first single-chip millimeter digital radial modulator will take advantage of 5G capabilities

Credit: University of Michigan

The first single-chip integrated digital beam modulator (MMW), created by electrical and computer engineers at the University of Michigan, opens new possibilities in high-frequency 5G communication. This technology can be used to improve vehicle-to-vehicle communication, autonomous driving, satellite internet, and national defense, to name a few.

Beamforming allows the device sending the signals to direct them in a specific direction, instead of radiating the signals in all directions – which can lead to significant interference and loss of efficiency. It is an essential technology for MMW communication, which occurs at a relatively high frequency (usually between 24GHz and 100GHz). This high-frequency connection allows for high speed data transmission, which is one of the main advantages of 5G.

Analog beamforming was a standard approach for researchers, but Professor Michael Flynn was researching a digital approach to exploit advantages such as large-scale beamforming, high-fidelity beam patterns, flexibility, and the ability to generate multiple beams simultaneously.

“With an analog beam configuration, you can only hear one thing at a time,” Flynn said. “But there are a number of new apps where you want to listen to multiple things at the same time, and quickly switch between them.”

For example, Flynn could imagine using digital beamforming technology on drones sent to disaster areas to provide emergency internet to people in trouble. Likewise, there are plans to launch satellites into space in order to provide internet to people who live outside cities, where internet access can be intermittent or non-existent. Having phones with digital wireless beamforming capability would provide individuals with more reliable access to the Internet.

The world's first single-chip millimeter digital radial modulator will take advantage of 5G capabilities

The student-generated test setup includes a small anechoic chamber and a mechanical device to move the beamformer in order to test its accuracy. Credit: University of Michigan

Flynn and his group built a 28GHz MMW digital beam converter, with a specially designed antenna assembly consisting of 16 antennas in one integrated circuit.

It is the first to know MMW system. Partly because it is a single chip, its power and size are better than current digital systems in terms of size. Because it is digital, the signal can be directed in any direction, and it can be “heard” from four different directions simultaneously.

This means, for example, that the device can track four planes or connect to four satellites at the same time.

Flynn was impressed with the students’ ability to engage not only with the latest research that led to the new technology, but also their willingness to engage with things like , Which was an important part of getting everything working together.

“This segment represents more than seven years of work by multiple generations of graduate students,” Flynn said.

Current and recent graduate students included Rondau Law, Kristen Weston, Daniel Weir and Fred Buehler, who co-authored the paper, “A 16-Element Integrated 28GHz Digital Beamformer with In-Pack 4 × 4 Correction Antenna Kit and 64 Pass Continuous-scale delta sigma ADCs sub.

“People never stop seeking better and better communication,” said PhD student Luo. “Millimeter wave digital beamforming could be a game-changer in the 5G world.”

Antenna system has ten times the data transmission and reception rates

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