Not so long ago, we read about something called the ‘Spray-on Jeans’. it looks like this bizarre, yet innovative theme has finally caught the attention of silicon valley geeks. Yep, I’m talking about ‘Spray-on Antennas’. In what could be a giant leap for Internet of Things (IoT) form factors, scientists say they have invented a spray-on antenna. And the bug-spray-like application will outperform traditional metal antennas, they claim.

If it indeed does outperform traditional antennas, the clear, ink-like radiators will transform physical mediums used in constructing networks. Flexible substrates, windows, or data center walls even could be made into antennas, which would then drastically alter the data-collecting landscape.

How do Spray-on Antennas work?

Folks, I’ll be honest here. I’m no expert in the exact science of how this works. But, I do have some credible information on this. The way the concept works is that titanium carbide compounds are dissolved in water to make the paint. The compound derives from a type of materials-science product called MXene (invented at Drexel in 2011 and pronounced “maksens”), which is basically an inorganic, super-thin material only a few atoms thick that combines conductive metal with water-dissolving characteristics. The material in the lab tests is then actually sprayed onto the object using a craft-style airbrush. When the water evaporates, the antenna remains. Too much to handle? Don’t worry about it.

The added advantage of using this is that, this would provide IoT weight reduction too. This, according to me, is crucial some tracking sensors, such as those used in shipping. The lightness could also have a knock-on effect in reducing sensor power consumption — the lighter a drone is, for example, the less power it needs from the same battery size and, thus, the more longevity it has in the air. The group say an optimum thickness of one-tenth the thickness of paper outperforms other nano-materials in testing, such as graphene. Crazy, right?

Flexibility could be a game changer here as well.What does this mean? It means, it could allow integration with significantly more objects than is possible with incumbent Aluminium, Copper, and other metals used to make traditional aerials. “Glass to yarn and skin” are all surfaces that will be tested.

Great ideas take time to implement. And the normal antennas aren’t going away anytime soon. With the advent of 5G & 6G technologies, study shows that the number of radios needed per person in the future could turn out to be 1000. Also, in the upcoming 5G IoT wireless technologies, which uses MIMO Antenna concepts, there are about 64 antennas in a single radio! Let’s all hope Spray-on Antennas become a reality!

Click here to watch the official video, by Drexel University.

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