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Antennas in Your Clothes? New Design Could Pave the Way

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Embroidered antenna

John Volakis, director of the ElectroScience Laboratory, holds a prototype communications antenna embroidered into cloth.

Credit: Al Zanyk, courtesy of Ohio State University

Ohio State University researchers are working on a new way to incorporate radio antennas directly into clothing, in an effort to improve communications reliability and the mobility of soldiers.

The team has created a prototype antenna by etching thin layers of brass on a commercially available plastic film which is light, flexible, and can be sewn onto fabric. Antennas can be a large and unwieldy addition to the heavy load of soldiers. However, the communications system makes use of a unique computer control device that lets multiple antennas work together in a single piece of clothing, and the device senses body movements and switches between antennas to activate the one with the best performance given the body's position.

The system can send and receive signals in all directions, even through walls and inside buildings, without the need for the wearer to carry an external signal. "In a way, we're doing what's already been done on a cell phone," says the ElectroScience Laboratory's John Volakis. "You don't see cell phones with external antennas anymore, because the antenna is part of the body of the phone."

Lab tests have revealed that the experimental antenna system provides four times the range of conventional military whip antennas, and the technology could be adapted for the general public.

From Ohio State University Research News
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