Conformal Load Bearing Antenna Structure
ABSTRACT: American Semiconductor will develop and demonstrate structural integration of a conformal load bearing antenna structure (CLAS). Future aircraft will incorporate distributed electronics, sensors, and flight control transducers directly into the composite airframe. For near-term Air Force applications, adding RF electronics into the CLAS will improve the performance of a wide variety of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), communication navigation identification (CNI), and electronic warfare (EW) functions. Longer term, embedding electronics into the airframe will enable"fly-by-feel"optimization of aircraft for increased performance, better fuel efficiency, and improved reliability. In Phase I, American Semiconductor will integrate a Flexible MEMS Reconfigurable Antenna with Low Noise Amplifier into a composite stack such as carbon fiber reinforced plastic. This CLAS prototype includes a flexible electronic system composed of RF devices, active components and multi-level circuitry and will be analyzed for both mechanical and electrical performance. In Phases II and III, American Semiconductor will expand the program to incorporate large area, flexible CMOS digital circuits on polymer substrates suitable for flexible, autonomous micro-sensor integration. Combining high-performance flexible CMOS with the RF and substrates created in Phase I will allow for creation of complete, complex CLAS devices suitable for numerous Air Force missions. BENEFIT: The technology developed and proven in this SBIR has multiple benefits, starting with the immediate application of conformal load bearing antennas (CLAS) but continuing into other conformal, pliable, and/or structural electronics and ultimately into industrial applications and consumer devices. CLAS, by definition, integrates the antenna function into the structure in such a way that the antenna itself is a load bearing structure to improve gain, reduce drag, reduce system size and weight, and enable new system concepts. CLAS provides lightweight and cost effective solutions to very large aperture requirements, enables high performance radar capability on smaller vehicles, and lowers drag and weight to improve platform endurance and speed. The technology in this SBIR can also be extended to fly-by-feel applications for active sensing of the flight environment. Fly-by-feel vastly improves empirical models for control and analytical modeling for design, enables exploitation of phenomena that cannot be analyzed accurately, allows a reduction in factors of safety due to load uncertainty, and reduction in air vehicle certification time and cost. The direct benefit of this work is that Phase II will deliver a complete, functional prototype Flexible MEMS Reconfigurable Antenna (FMRA) in a CLAS. This effort will result in not only a working FMRA, but will also demonstrate a proven manufacturing capability for additional applications such as the fly-by-feel wing with integrated sensors and high performance distributed computing. The technology in this SBIR extends into military, commercial and industrial markets such as pliable smart sensor systems, wearable electronics embedded into garments, and foldable/roll-able electronics such as phones, tablets, and e-readers. Phase I of this project is the first step in creating truly pliable electronic devices. Thinness and pliability are desirable features for many portable electronics with obvious benefits including reduced size, reduced weight, increased durability, and the potential for new functionality based on flexibility. As products become thinner, they flex due to a loss of mechanical rigidity. Deformation during use results in cracking and failure of traditional integrated circuits. If an e-book, mobile phone or other product could be built in fully flexible high performance electronics technology, then the resulting device would achieve the ultimate thinness and be very durable. When this concept is taken to its logical extreme, the devices become bendable, rollable and foldable. This also provides a new basis for products yet to be envisioned or proposed. Military applications include soldier-worn electronics that greatly benefit from improvements in size, weight, and durability that come with pliable circuits. The medical communities have interest in flexible electronics for patient worn and patient portable devices for preventative, pre-treatment, treatment, and post-treatment monitoring. The commercialization potential is far larger than necessary for success in the flexible electronics space.
Small Business Information at Submission:
American Semiconductor, Inc.
3100 S. Vista Ave., Suite 230 Boise, ID -
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