Princeton University researchers have taken a step toward developing a type of antenna array that could coat an airplane’s wings. The technology, which could enable many uses of emerging 5G and 6G wireless networks, is based on large-area electronics, a way of fabricating electronic circuits on thin, flexible materials.
The approach overcomes limitations of conventional silicon semiconductors, which can operate at the high radio frequencies needed for 5G applications but can only be made up to a few centimeters wide and are difficult to assemble into the large arrays required for enhanced communication with low-power devices.
With an airplane, because its distance is so far, much signal power is lost. Since wings are a fairly large area, a single-point receiver on the wing does not help but if the amount of area that’s capturing the signal is increased by a factor of a hundred or a thousand, signal power can be reduced and sensitivity of the radio can be increased.