New Radar Technology Provides High-Resolution with Little-to-No Bandwidth

Originally developed for military applications, radar technologies today are used in various other domains ranging from, automotive and weather forecasting to mapping geological terrain and air traffic management. Until now, scientists believed that radar accuracy and resolution are related to the range of frequencies or radio bandwidth used by the devices. But a new study at Tel Aviv University finds that an approach inspired by optical coherence tomography (OCT) requires little to no bandwidth to accurately create a high-resolution map of a radar's surrounding environment.

According to Prof. Pavel Ginzburg of TAU's School of Electrical Engineering, one of the principal authors of the study, they have demonstrated a different type of ranging system that possesses superior range resolution and is almost completely free of bandwidth limitations. The new technology has numerous applications, especially with respect to the automotive industry. According to Pavel, the existing facilities support their new approach, which means that it can be launched almost immediately. The new research was led and conducted jointly by Prof. Ginzburg, Vitali Kozlov, Rony Komissarov and Dmitry Filonov, all of TAU's School of Electrical Engineering. It was published in Nature Communications.

Previously, it was commonly believed that radar resolution was proportional to the bandwidth used - the broader the range of frequencies, the more accurate the detection of objects. But the TAU researchers have now demonstrated that low-bandwidth radars can achieve similar performance at a lower cost and without broadband signals by exploiting the coherence property of electromagnetic waves. Two wave sources are perfectly coherent if they have a constant phase difference, the same frequency and the same waveform. The new "partially coherent" radar is as effective at resolving targets when compared with standard "coherent" radars in experimental situations.

The new concept, according to Vitali Kozlov, offers solutions in situations that require high-range resolution and accuracy but in which the available bandwidth is limited, such as the self-driving car industry, optical imaging and astronomy. Not many cars on the road today use radars, so there's almost no competition for allocated frequencies. But what will happen in the future, when every car will be equipped with radar and every radar will demand the entire bandwidth? According to Kozlov, we'll find ourselves in a sort of radio traffic jam. The new solutions permit drivers to share the available bandwidth without any conflict.

The demonstration is just the first step in a series of new approaches to radiofrequency detectors that explore the impact of low-bandwidth radars on traditional fields. They intend to apply this technology to previously unexplored areas, like rescue operations — sensing if an individual is buried in a collapsed building — or street mapping — sensing if a child is about to cross the street behind a bus that conceals him.

Research for the study was supported by an ERC grant and Kamin, and it was conducted at TAU's Radio Physics Laboratory's anechoic chamber.