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2 November 2017

Smart Fabric Antenna

For Military Applications

Soldiers across the globe are equipped with bulky weapons and gadgets. In a network-centric battle field, it is quite laborious to use rigid bulky antennas. At times, the compactness of the device and its accessibility become an issue.

Recently, a group of researchers from the CSIR-NIIST, Trivandrum and CUSAT, Kochi devised a smart fabric, employing an E-shaped microstrip patch antenna on multilayered fabric. Owing to low dielectric losses and moisture regain values, they chose polyester as the fabric material. They stacked three layers of the polyester together with an adhesive polymer as interlayer,  to minimise surface leakage currents. The researchers layered a polyvinyl butyral coating on the surface to make it more hydrophobic which, in turn, reduces losses. Further, the microstrip antenna was fabricated on either side of the textile using an industrially feasible screen printing process. The team also tested the performance of the textile by folding and bending at different angles. High resistivity to moisture, warping and sweat gives the product a commercial advantage.

With the device operation ranging at ~3.3 GHz, it is considered a well-suited application for WiMAX network – a 4G long-range wireless network technology. Although long term evolution – LTE – technology has overtaken WiMAX in terms of network speed, WiMAX has more advantages than LTE to connect remote areas using a “microwave link”.

This wearable antenna can be an integral part of military clothing for effective communication, especially in remote areas. As the device is embedded inside the clothing, it is almost invisible. Moreover, fire-fighters can also make use of the technology in rescue operations.

Smart Materials and Structures, 26: (2017)

Sathy Harshavardhan Reddy

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