This image shows the antenna, feed, and reservoir. Credit: Jacob Adams

Engineers at the North Carolina State University (NCSU) have recently designed a liquid metal antenna. This new antenna might soon bring in drastic changes in the world of mobile devices. Here, it must be mentioned that the researchers involved in the process of making the new antenna represented the university’s Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering.

For those who don’t know: since a long time, researchers representing the NCSU have been focusing a lot on liquid metal devices. However, they didn’t succeed in producing any such thing as liquid metal devices require the use of external pumps, embedding which into small electronic systems is extremely difficult.

This new antenna designed by the NCSU researchers can be controlled just through voltage. During the process of designing the device, researchers came to know that the voltage might have a significant impact on the shape and size of the liquid metal. Positive voltage results in expansion of the material and negative voltage results in its contraction.

This image shows the antenna, feed, and reservoir. Credit: Jacob Adams
This image shows the antenna, feed, and reservoir.
Credit: Jacob Adams

According to the study team, voltage alone is capable of shaping liquid metal because of its electrochemical properties. These qualities enable the substance in question to either withdraw from or flow into a capillary of conducting path.

The scientists further explained that another vital player in this entire event is the surface tension of the liquid metal. Positive voltage reduces it through the application of an oxide on the metal’s surface; this oxide can be removed later by a negative voltage that will also increase the material’s surface tension.

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The researchers weighed the process of pulling the liquid metal out or pushing it into a capillary against an electrochemical pump. The regular antennas in use currently come equipped with electronic switches that play the role of solid pumps. However, the newly designed antenna has been found to be more powerful and flexible than those regular structures.

To help people understand the advantages of using this new antenna, Professor Michael Dickey informed that the liquid metal antenna designed by him and his team possesses the ability to tune over a range i.e. at least double of what the systems equipped with electronic switches are capable of. Right now, the research team is trying to find out what kind of applications this new device can have.

SOURCEJournal of Applied Physics