Spray-on antennae
October 14, 2018 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Researchers at Drexel University have developed a new kind of antenna that can be sprayed onto just about any surface. The antenna is made up of an incredibly thin, metallic material known as "MXene", a two-dimensional form of titanium carbide that's highly conductive, which allows it to transmit and direct radio waves. (Science).
posted by adept256 (14 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Can't wait for Ron Popiel to start infomercials tor a combo antenna / bald-spot coverup.
posted by zaixfeep at 8:56 AM on October 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Me: *has tought, looks at cats*

Cats: *sense unusual thought pattern due to built in cat sixth sense radar antenna, decide it's probably flea drop time, run outside, eye me suspiciously through window"
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:24 AM on October 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

PSA: "Science Advances" (where this study is published) is not the same as "Science".

The former rapidly publishes 'hot' work quickly. It does not need to be stellar or that novel.

The latter is where genuinely groundbreaking work goes.
posted by lalochezia at 10:37 AM on October 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

I wonder what amount of power these antennas can radiate. I read the Science Advances article but didn't find anything. The first thing I thought when I saw "Spray-on antennae" was "I wonder it that stuff could handle 2kW out the horn RCP?"
posted by Rob Rockets at 12:37 PM on October 14, 2018

As someone who regularly makes antennas out of 20nm thick films, I'm confused by the focus of the article.

"Flexible, really-good, thin-film conductor that can be deposited at room temperature in air," is exciting and very cool for all sorts of reasons. "Also, you can make antennas out of it," seems like it belongs well after the fold, rather than in the headline. None the less, this is neat!
posted by eotvos at 12:49 PM on October 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

IF this is a viable technology going forward, the telecom industry will be all over it. They'll be able to mount very low-profile antennas on buildings and other structures outdoors, and I'm almost certain it'll be used for indoor small-cell applications. The upcoming "internet of things" and 5G are much more reliant on small, localized antennas, especially within buildings. A thin antenna like this would be ideal.

I wonder what amount of power these antennas can radiate.

The article says they're comparable to current antennas. Even large cell towers don't typically put out that much: one antenna panel might put out 240W or less, the whole thing putting out maybe 1kW. A small cell antenna could get by with much less, and if these were applied in an array, each one would only need to put out a few dozen watts. At least in interior applications, I think the real limiting factor will be public safety, since you can only expose people to so much RF radiation before they start getting headaches (stand too close to an antenna for too long, and it'll start exciting the water molecules in your body).
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:00 PM on October 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's not two-dimensional, it's just extremely thin
posted by clockzero at 2:37 PM on October 14, 2018

Amateur Radio just got a lot more interesting!
posted by spinifex23 at 4:34 PM on October 14, 2018

That's cool, but when will I and my significant other be able to spray this on ourselves for a highly secure, radio network just between the two of us?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:42 AM on October 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Remember folks... it is liquid metal sprayed on a surface. This is the sort of thing when used improperly results in all your terminals being shorted to ground....
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:53 AM on October 15, 2018

Actually, I'm still unclear how this works. I know a decent amount about exactly one class of antenna (cell antennas), but basically none of the underlying science. Where do you hook up your leads to a thin film like this? How do you translate the microstructure to the, er, macro equipment you're hooking up to it? Is one sheet of film exactly one antenna, or can one sheet of film have multiple antenna sectors?
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:30 AM on October 15, 2018

eotvos, have any more insight into cool potential uses for such a material? I must confess, my initial reaction to this was that it's a bit too late in tech to be excited about radio antennae, but I am realizing how much we still use antennae without me having to think about it. I'm too stuck on the old idea of annoying metal twigs you fiddle with on old shitty TVs.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:31 PM on October 15, 2018

eotvos, have any more insight into cool potential uses for such a material?
I'm getting way outside of the range of things I actually know anything about, which is usually a warning sign that I should stop talking. But, I'd naively think that you could also use this for all sorts of conductors on flexible media (solar-cell covered backpacks, e-paper that can be folded into an envelope, connecting sensors on bus windows, etc.) We can do some of that pretty easily now, but it usually involves sputtering copper or something similar onto plastic strips, which means the materials have to be compatible with being exposed to plasma under vacuum at fairly high temperatures. There are some alternatives - like the silver laden epoxy mentioned in the article - but they're all expensive and kind of a pain to work with. Being able to lay down wires with an airbrush on the surface of a finished product sounds pretty neat.
posted by eotvos at 3:05 PM on October 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's not two-dimensional, it's just extremely thin

The article uses that phrasing too. They do sort of tacitly justify the metaphor, but it's a little hand-wavy.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:11 AM on October 19, 2018

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