Millimeter-Wave Signal Generator Could Revolutionize Scanning, Spectroscopy

Researchers from the Payam Heydari’s lab at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) have created a tiny device they are calling a radiator. The radiator emits millimeter-wave signals in the G band, from 110 to 300 GHz. Waves in this frequency band are said to easily penetrate solid surfaces and provide extremely high-resolution images. Clearly, the device shows great promise in providing more effective methods of biomedical and security scanning and imaging. The radiator is also viable for point-to-point wireless communication applications.

According to its creators, the radiator chip is said to deliver the highest power and efficiency of any device in its class.

UCI professor of electrical engineering & computer science Payam Heydari, a 2017 IEEE Fellow and lead investigator on the project says, “We’re very excited about the successful design of this radiator because it represents a complete breakthrough. We’re offering an entirely new kind of physics, a new kind of device really. Our power and efficiency is an order of magnitude greater than other designs.”

Through a process of trial and error, he and members of his UCI lab invented a tool that performs three crucial functions. It combines power from multiple amplifiers, modulates the signal to a desired frequency setting, then it radiates it out in waves that are used to see, sense, or communicate. This approach eliminates all the inter-stage operations, making the device highly efficient and capable of higher output power.

A graduate student, Peyman Nazari, designed the device as an octagonal semiconductor chip with a unique cavity structure that allows for the emission of circularly polarized radiation. Most transmitters generate linearly polarized signals, which can get lost when antennas and receivers are out of alignment. Emissions from one of the UCI radiators, if you could see them, would appear as tiny spinning tornados. Beams of this shape are particularly effective at penetrating solid objects and providing detailed pictures of what’s inside.

UCI professor of electrical engineering & computer science Payam Heydari (left) and grad student researcher Peyman Nazari have engineered a circularly polarized radiating element that could have widespread applications.

Initially, the radiator will be viable for biomedical applications, as it will give doctors a way to differentiate tumor masses from healthy tissue. It could also be used in genomic research, equipping scientists with an instrument that can be so precisely tuned as to enable the excitation, or lighting up, of individual proteins.

Beyond scanning and imaging, the device promise to do much more. According to Heydari, it could be the key that unlocks millimeter-wave transmission as part of the fifth-generation wireless standard now in development. In addition, the chip can be embedded virtually anywhere. For more details, visit