News Feature | February 23, 2023

Back Channel — Pressure To Design In Tighter Spaces, World's First Advanced-Ready 5G Modem RF Chip, 3D Lightning, And More

John Oncea

By John Oncea, Editor

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Back Channel presents the most captivating news and innovations in RF and microwaves. This week, we explore a couple of markets, congratulate an NSF CAREER award winner, and more.

“As radar and electronic warfare (EW) system providers continue to reduce size, weight, and power (SWaP) while increasing performance demands, this move puts more and more pressure on RF and microwave component designers to pack more capability in ever-shrinking footprints,” writes Military Embedded Systems. There’s no single solution to optimizing for SWaP, notes Tony Capello, chief technologist at Mercury Systems (Andover, Massachusetts). “Instead, we consider design trade-offs throughout the development process. We carefully select the architecture to meet performance in the smallest size possible. Additionally, we work at chip scale to combine devices in much smaller space,” Capello says.

Market Roundup: RF Isolators Market Will See A High Growth in CAGR; RF Semiconductor Market Projected to Reach $39.6 Billion, Globally, By 2031 at 8.4% CAGR: Allied Market Research; and RF-over-Fiber (RFoF) Solutions Market is estimated to be worth US$ 1.84 Billion by 2033-end | Persistence Market Research. These reports come from NEWS CHANNEL NEBRASKA, Cision, and GlobeNewswire, respectively. Among the highlight:

  • The Global RF Isolators market is anticipated to rise at a considerable rate during the forecast period, between 2023 and 2028. In 2021, the market is growing at a steady rate and with the rising adoption of strategies by key players, the market is expected to rise over the projected horizon.
  • The global RF semiconductor industry generated $18.9 billion in 2021 and is anticipated to generate $39.6 billion by 2031, witnessing a CAGR of 8.4% from 2022 to 2031. The report offers a detailed analysis of changing market trends, top segments, key investment pockets, value chains, regional landscapes, and competitive scenarios.
  • Radio-over-fiber (RFoF) technology nowadays is becoming highly crucial for the wireless market to support increasing data traffic volumes. Optical wireless networking connectivity can generally be attained utilizing radio-frequency (RF) or optical wireless approaches at the physical level. Optical wireless networking provides a broad unregulated bandwidth that can be utilized by mobile terminals inside an indoor environment to establish high-speed multimedia services.

Congratulations! Howard University (Go Bison!) electrical engineering assistant professor Su Yan recently received the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development award, known as the NSF CAREER award, for his research on the modeling and optimization of radiofrequency (RF) and microwave reconfigurable devices. “It is a great pleasure and honor to receive this award, which will support our continuing effort on developing advanced modeling and optimization methodologies that combine the simulation power of modern numerical methods based on mathematical and physical models and novel neural network techniques based on Big Data,” said Yan. “It also will support the education and training of Howard undergraduate and graduate students in electrical engineering and help fulfill our mission as the leading HBCU in the nation.”

Qualcomm unveiled the world's first advanced-ready 5G modem-RF chip that can be used not only in smartphones but mixed reality headsets, 5G networks, and other areas, reports Seeking Alpha. The Snapdragon X75 5G Modem-RF chip utilizes artificial intelligence that’s two-and-a-half times faster than previous AI used and better software to bring faster connections to devices, while also allowing them to get better signal strength, data speed, and coverage.

In partnership with Northrop Grumman and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), MMA Design has developed and delivered a Flight Deployment Subsystem for AFRL’s Arachne flight experiment, reports Satnews. The entire subsystem was custom designed and fabricated by MMA Design to meet Northrop Grumman’s and AFRL’s specifications for this experiment. The assembly is being delivered to Northrop Grumman for final integration and testing with a planned launch in 2025. This year, MMA Design will be involved in post-delivery integration support at Northrop Grumman’s facility.

Three satellites launched and deployed by HawkEye 360 (with help from RocketLab) given a boost to the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA), which was launched by the Quad leaders last year to combat illegal fishing and to monitor “dark shipping,” reports Hindustan Times. Once the HawkEye 360 satellites achieve initial operating capability, the firm will be able to “collect RF data as frequently as once per hour anywhere on earth, enabling the company to offer the most timely and actionable RF data and data analytics”, the firm said.

Eos reports a new approach enables meter-scale localization of lightning strikes. And it’s already illuminating the basic physics of the phenomenon. Under favorable conditions, the researchers could pinpoint a lightning strike’s source location to within several meters at an altitude of kilometers aboveground. What’s more, they could track the development of lightning within fractions of a microsecond. The team then applied their new instrumentation and analysis techniques to several observed lightning strikes. They computed 3D maps showing the shape and development of each lightning event, including both cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground events. They even demonstrated that for events with linear polarization, BIMAP-3D can deduce the orientation of the radio polarization in three dimensions.

ECLIPSE, a new sensor package, is scheduled to launch to the ISS via the DoD's Space Test Program and promises to help to make radio waves travel better than ever, according to Interesting Engineering. The Naval Research Laboratory intends to start testing a pair of ionospheric sensors on the International Space Station this spring. If the tests are successful, they could result in a constellation of monitoring satellites that would improve high-frequency radio communications for the Department of Defense (DoD). The two ECLIPSE instruments were based on the "Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction CubeSat Experiment" (CIRCE), a project by NRL and the U.K. Defense Science and Technology Laboratory. Two tiny CubeSats that were part of the CIRCE project, each with various sensors to explore the ionosphere were destroyed in the Virgin Orbit launch attempt that failed on January 10 from Cornwall.

Finally, you can’t believe what you read on Facebook. Who knew? According to Rappler, claims that radio waves can cause vibrations that are strong enough to cause earthquakes are – surprise, surprise – false. Just to be clear, earthquakes occur when tectonic plates collide or move past each other and the resulting stress that builds up can cause massive vibrations that result in earthquakes, no matter what your crazy uncle says of Facebook.