Smarter antennas can be made 50 times smaller by harnessing the unusual properties of metamaterials, periodically spaced free-air elements that reverse the natural direction of reflected radio waves. Look for near microscopic antenna designs in the future able to shrink a cell phone down to finger-ring size. R.C.J.
Metamaterials were made famous a few years back by opening the door to invisibility cloaks. Now scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology , the University of Arizona (Tucson) and Boeing Research & Technology (Seattle) have repurposed metamaterials to create a "Z-antenna" design that is 50 times smaller than today's antennas—enabling a cell phone antenna to be shrunk small enough to fit on a finger ring. The researchers hope their novel antenna designs will enable pint-sized emergency communications devices, ultra-small sensors and portable ground-penetrating radar devices that can find underground tunnels, caverns and similar geophysical features.
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