According to participating scientists such as Thomas Zwick, project manager and head of the Institute for High Frequency Technology and Electronics (IHE) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), radar sensors at frequencies above 100 GHz have enormous potential as a supplement to existing optical sensors, whether camera or lidar. "On the one hand, they allow for good resolution and at the same time high robustness, for example against smoke or dust," says Zwick. To achieve resolution in the millimetre range, the circuit must have an output bandwidth of at least 50 GHz with a switchable transmitter for Time Division Multiplex (TDM) and MIMO operation. Ceramic and plastic lenses are being tested for this purpose. In order to keep the price level low and productivity in manufacturing high, techniques such as 3D printing and injection moulding are also used. With maximum dimensions of 10 mm, the entire component will not be much larger than the lens itself. "With our mini-radar, we are not only improving measurement performance, but also industrial manufacturability," says Zwick. The small size and precise measurement open up completely new application possibilities. In addition, the architecture with multipliers and an external local oscillator as well as a switchable transmitter allows several radar sensors to be interconnected on one board to form a MIMO radar.
The result is a versatile radar front-end that can be scaled to different systems and is essential for industrial applications, where a large number of applications must be served. The project is characterised by its strong focus on practical applications, giving companies the opportunity to participate in research innovations at an early stage, in this case VEGA.