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Wireless at the Speed of Plasma

By New Scientist

December 16, 2010

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Britain's Plasma Antennas has developed a new type of antenna that could dramatically change high-speed wireless communications, miniature radar, and energy weapons. The Plasma Silicon Antenna (PSiAN) consists of thousands of diodes on a silicon chip that each produce a cloud of electrons, or plasma, that reflect high-frequency radio waves. When the diodes are selectively activated, the shape of the reflecting area can be manipulated to focus and direct a beam of radio waves. "Without beam-forming antennas it would be difficult to scale to the levels of density of wireless devices we expect to have in future homes," says Intel Labs' Anmol Sheth.

PSiAN could be used in a new generation of ultrafast Wi-Fi, known as Wi-Gig. Wi-Gig could reach 7 Gbits/second, compared to about 54 Mbits/s with Wi-Fi, making downloads of TV shows possible in seconds. PSiAN is small enough to be placed within a cell phone, according to Plasma Antennas' Ian Russell. PSiAN also could be used in cars as low-cost miniature radar systems to help drivers avoid collisions.

The U.S. military is interested in using plasma antennas to develop a more advanced version of their Active Denial System, which heats a person's skin with a beam of radio waves.

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