These new superthin antennas are made from metallic nanomaterials

The devices could help bring flexible, lightweight wearable tech online

polyester sheet with tiny antenna

ANTENNAS EVERYWHERE  2-D flakes of metallic material (sprayed onto polyester sheet above) could be painted onto household appliances or printed onto clothing-embedded electronics to create radio antennas that bring these devices online.

Kanit Hantanasirisakul/Drexel Univ.

A new design for lightweight, flexible antennas, made from metallic 2-D materials, could one day be used connect household appliances and wearable devices to the internet (SN: 6/9/18, p. 18).

Researchers created the antennas, described online September 21 in Science Advances, using a water-based ink containing 1-nanometer-thick flakes of titanium carbide. The ink can be sprayed, painted or printed onto various materials, such as paper, glass or fabric, or fashioned into freestanding films.

Materials scientist and engineer Yury Gogotsi and colleagues at Drexel University in Philadelphia created bendy radio antennas by overlaying titanium carbide films onto sheets of polyester or filter paper. The films ranged from 62 nanometers to 8 micrometers thick — up to about the width of a red blood cell. At about 6 centimeters long, these antennas send and receive radio signals at 2.4 gigahertz, a frequency commonly used for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth communications.

Gogotsi’s team also used titanium carbide films to make radio frequency identification tags, similar to the antitheft tags attached to merchandise at department stores. The researchers’ superslim ID tags can be scanned up to eight meters away. “You can imagine unmanned stores, where every item has a simple and cheap [identification] tag, and those tags are automatically read when a customer leaves the store” to charge that person’s account, Gogotsi says.

Previously the staff writer for physical sciences at Science News, Maria Temming is the assistant managing editor at Science News Explores. She has bachelor's degrees in physics and English, and a master's in science writing.

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