New mm-Wave High-Frequency Chip Transmits Gigabits of Data in Seconds

Engineers at the University of California, Davis have developed a novel, high-frequency electronic chip capable of transmitting tens of gigabits of data per second. The chip was designed by Assistant Professor Omeed Momeni and Doctoral student Hossein Jalili, using a phased array antenna system.

Phased array systems funnel the energy from multiple sources into a single beam that can be narrowly steered and directed to a specific location. The array systems are pretty difficult to create, especially at higher frequencies and the UCD researchers are the first to achieve this much bandwidth at this frequency.

The chip prototyped by Momeni and Jalili successfully operates at 370 GHz with 52 GHz of bandwidth. For comparison, FM radio waves broadcast between 87.5 and 108 MHz; 4G and LTE cellular networks generally function between 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz with up to 20 MHz of bandwidth. Most modern electronics are designed to operate at lower frequencies. However, the growing demand for faster communication, and new and emerging applications of sensing and imaging are driving the creation of technologies that function at higher frequencies.

According to professor Momeni, theoretically, 4G cellular networks have reached their data rate limit and as the migration to systems like cloud computing and next generation cellular networks continues, the need for speed will grow. Higher frequencies will mean more bandwidth and more bandwidth will mean higher data rate.

This tiny piece of hardware designed by Momeni and Jalili is evidence that it is possible to harness the large available bandwidth in millimeter-wave and terahertz bands using a single, compact chip. This is an important step toward the development of scalable systems that can be used to sharpen technologies like spectroscopy, sensing, radar, medical imaging and high-speed communication. In future work, Momeni plans to integrate the chip into imaging and communication systems.

The research was supported by a five-year National Science Foundation CAREER grant awarded to Momeni. The ongoing project is titled “Scalable Traveling and Standing Wave Structures for High-Power and High-Efficiency Terahertz and mm-Wave Radiator and Phased Array Systems”. The researchers presented the chip and related research at the IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference earlier this year.