As North­eastern Uni­ver­sity engi­neering pro­fessor Hos­sein Mos­al­laei sees it, antenna tech­nology has not been keeping pace with three trends in the devel­op­ment of wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tions devices: greater energy effi­ciency, faster speed, and smaller components.

Mos­al­laei is seeking to address all three areas in a research project that could lead to sig­nif­i­cant advances for a variety of appli­ca­tions, ranging from med­ical diag­nostic tech­nology to air­port secu­rity screening devices.

For example, smaller antennas that transmit infor­ma­tion quickly and use less power can sup­port the devel­op­ment of tiny med­ical biosen­sors that transmit diag­nostic data faster and pro­vide doc­tors with more accu­rate, focused infor­ma­tion about a patient’s condition.

Whether they will help doc­tors diag­nose patients ear­lier, or help to mon­itor the world around us more effi­ciently, the tech­no­log­ical capa­bil­i­ties of these tiny antennas will bring about a new era in improved wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tions,” said Mosallaei.

One major chal­lenge for Mos­al­laei and his team is to create smaller antennas that also transmit infor­ma­tion at high speed. Cur­rently, all antennas — whether used for cell phone com­mu­ni­ca­tion, tele­vi­sion recep­tion or medical-​​device infor­ma­tion sharing — func­tion at optimum levels at an oper­ating fre­quency of 1GHz and about 150 mil­lime­ters in length.

Mos­al­laei hopes to main­tain that func­tion­ality or better it, working with antennas just one mil­limeter in length.

The answer, he believes, lies in the use of metamaterials—manufactured mate­rials not found in nature.

Working in the micro– and nanoscales, Mos­al­laei and his col­leagues plan to engi­neer and assemble antennas inte­grated with active circuits—all com­posed of metamaterials—that will be tiny, energy-​​efficient, and fast.

Our goal is to develop a new antenna that allows for very quick data trans­mis­sion over any dis­tance, long or short, while keeping it as small as pos­sible,” he says.

Mos­al­laei and his team were recently awarded a three-​​year, $490,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research to sup­port the project.