Ultrathin flexible spray-on MXene antennas for 5G

Ultrathin flexible spray-on MXene antennas for 5G

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Researchers in the US have demonstrated MXene spray-on antennas that are suitable for 5G, wearable and IoT networks.

The antennas developed at Drexel University use the MXene two dimensional material in a two year project have performance levels approaching copper.  

“This combination of communications performance with extreme thinness, flexibility and durability sets a new standard for antenna technology,” said Yury Gogotsi, professor of Materials Science and Engineering in Drexel’s College of Engineering. “While copper antennas have been the best in terms of performance for quite some time, their physical limitations have prevented connected and mobile technology from making the big leaps forward that many have predicted. Due to their unique set of characteristics MXene antennas could play an enabling role in the development of IoT technology.”

The water-soluble ceramic material (Ti3C2Tx) can be spray applied, screen printed or inkjet-printed onto just about any substrate and remains flexible without sacrificing performance.

“Generally copper antenna arrays are manufactured by etching printed circuit boards, this is a difficult process to undertake on a flexible substrate,” said Dr Meikang Han, researcher at the A.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Institute. “This puts MXene at a distinct advantage because it disperses in water to produce an ink, which can be sprayed or printed onto building walls or flexible substrates to create antennas.”

Three sets of spray-coated MXene antennas tested were between 7-14 times thinner and 15-30 times lighter than a similar copper antenna and were tested the antennas in both lab and open environments for gain, radiation efficiency and directivity.

In each instance, the MXene antennas performed within 5 percent of copper antennas, with performance increasing with thickness of the antenna. The best performing MXene patch antenna, about one-seventh the thickness of standard copper antennas, was 99 percent as efficient as a copper antennas operating at 16.4 GHz frequency in an open environment. MXenes were also 98% as effective as their copper counterparts operating in the 5G bandwidth.

Their performance exceeded that of several other new materials being considered for antennas, including silver ink, carbon nanotubes and graphene. And, significantly, these performance numbers did not waiver when the MXene antennas were subjected to as many as 5,000 bending cycles – a mark of durability that far surpasses its peer materials.

“MXene’s scalability and environmental sustainability in manufacturing has been well established, for this material to now achieve performance goals on pace with the best materials on the market today is certainly a significant development,” said Gogotsi. “As we continue to test various coating patterns and techniques while additionally optimizing the composition of MXene materials, I expect their performance to continue to improve.”

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