By Hamish Johnston
When it comes to putting the latest technologies to work, you can’t beat the mobile-phone industry. Just think of all the R&D that went into evolving those “bricks” of just twenty years ago into the sleek little cellphone in your pocket today.
It is strange therefore that the industry seems to have shunned electromagnetic metamaterials — which many physicists (and admittedly physicsworld.com) claim could boost cellphone performance.
Metamaterials are arrays of tiny components — each of which is designed to have a specific response to microwaves. By carefully selecting and arranging the components, a metamaterial antenna could be made much smaller than a conventional antenna — but offer similar performance.
In a paper posted on the arXiv preprint server, Nokia’s Pekka Ikonen gives five reasons why metamaterials have not been embraced — ranging from practical engineering and cost challenges to shortcomings in how developers “market” their new antennas to handset designers.
Ikonen also suggests a few ways forward, notably creating performance benchmarks for comparing metamaterial-based antennas to more conventional devices.
He also points out that those designing handsets seem to have forgotten that there is a long tradition of using metamaterials elsewhere in microwave engineering.