Antennas may not be sticks that jut out of a router or crammed along the side of a smart phone, if a U.S. company's research pays off. Instead, says Fractal Antenna Systems Inc., an antenna could be spread across any flat surface.
The Waltham, Mass.-based company said Thursday it has filed a patent application for what it calls ‘Fractal Plasmonic Surfaces’ (FPS), which it says could provide wideband ability at low cost along with other unique features.

The technology would exploit the use of fractals, intricate geometric figures made from scaling and applying a simple pattern, the company said in a news release. The fractals are placed closely making a doily-like surface layer in a unique antenna method. This system is a ‘metamaterial’ with electromagnetic attributes unattainable by other means, says the company.

If FPS is practical, antenna placement and tuning would be minor issues, says the company. In addition the gain of the FPS antenna depends solely on the area, and not how separate antennas are attached and ‘phased.’ The FPS approach is said to need no contacts or components.

“The FPS essentially is one tiny antenna that makes copies of itself across a layer using surface waves that physicists call ‘plasmons,’” says CEO Nathan Cohen in the release. “There’s no direct connection or feed. Each of these little antennas adds up to make the antenna analogy of a fly’s eye. Covering one has no effect on the others. The problem of hand- smothering the antenna on smartphones, tablets, and other devices now becomes a thing of the past: the antenna has ‘self configured’.

“We have to start looking at surfaces such as the back of a smartphone, wallpaper, a wallet, a printer, a washing machine, or a pill bottle, as a great place to embed an FPS and make the wireless internet of things a reality. The antenna is now no longer a compromising issue. There is a freedom of placement and usage that is unprecedented in new applications. Put simply, whenever you see a surface, you can now think ‘antenna.’’’

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