In Brief
Researchers from Northeastern University in Boston have developed an antenna that is 100 times smaller than current technology. This development could help pave the way for brain-computer interfaces and implantable cell phones.

Tiny Antennae

If the prospect of implanting a phone into your hand sounds exciting to you, the latest development from Northeastern University in Boston will give you something to celebrate. A team of researchers has developed a new antenna that is 100 times smaller than current technology and it could allow for further development of better medical devices, finger phones, and brain-computer interfaces (BCIs).

The team was able to develop a device that takes electromagnetic (EM) waves and converts them into acoustic waves, which have shorter wavelengths, allowing the antenna to be smaller. In order to facilitate that conversion, the materials scientists on the team used thin sheets of piezomagnetic material. This material expands and contracts as a response to EM waves, creating acoustic vibrations. Their findings showed that the new antennas could send and receive 2.5 gigahertz signals around 100,000 times more efficiently than a conventional ring antenna of the same size. Their report has been published in Nature Communications.

Image Credit: Seanbatty / Pixabay

Next Level of Small

The kinds of devices that we could end of shrinking thanks to this technology are widely varied. Further development of this new tech could lead to smaller satellites, bring about a new meaning to the phrase hand-held technology by making it implantable, and give medical professionals new ways to monitor health.

The potential applications in BCIs is particularly exciting for the study’s lead author, Nian Sun. He sees them as “like science-fiction.” He is currently working with a Massachusetts General Hospital neurosurgeon to create an implant that can read and/or control neural activity, which could help to better diagnose and treat neurological disorders and pave the way for devices that would link our brains to computers. This tech is young, though, so we will have to wait and see if it can be successfully and safely scaled for use in consumer products.