Spray-On Form-Fitting Antennas and EM Filters

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February 8, 2016 | Originally published by Date Line: February 8 on

Scientists at the Raytheon-UMass Lowell Research Institute (RURI) have developed printable inks for producing tunable, electromagnetic filters on a variety of surfaces. The result can be printed directly on military equipment, including tanks, armored vehicles, and aircraft, serving as anything from a radio antenna to a radar array to even an “invisibility cloak”. 

The technology involves a ferroelectric nano-ink—a material whose properties can be tuned by an applied voltage printed directly onto sheets or the surface of objects. The ink is sprayed down via aerosol jet into gridlike patterns, and researchers are working on a robotic arm that can help guide the ink dispenser. 

The defense-related applications of this new process are huge. Radars arrays on fighter planes and AWACS-type aircraft could be printed directly onto the aircraft itself, doing away with nose or mast-mounted radar systems. Dr. Chris McCarroll, RURI co-director, told Popular Mechanics, “Near term, there is potential to print antennas on the outer surface with feeds to internal electronics below the surface. We can put the very flat phased array system on the skin of an aircraft, it will have to be thin enough to not impact aerodynamics and other concerns.”