News Feature | March 30, 2023

Back Channel — Rolls Royce And Nuclear Reactors On The Moon, Ultra-Low-Power IoT Through RF, The Father Of Polish RF, And More

John Headshot cropped  500 px wide

By John Oncea, Editor


Back Channel presents the most captivating news and innovations in RF and microwaves. This week, we look at some AOC news, the successful test flight of an electric motor drive on a hybrid electric aircraft, a life well lived, and more.

Scientists and Rolls Royce engineers are working on the microreactor program to develop technology that will provide the power needed for humans to live and work on Earth’s natural satellite, reports The Guardian. Or, put another way, Rolls Royce is developing a nuclear reactor for a moon base. Using U.K. Space Agency funding, Rolls Royce will work with a variety of collaborators including the University of Oxford, the University of Bangor, the University of Brighton, the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), and Nuclear AMRC. Abi Clayton, director of future programs for Rolls-Royce, said, “This funding will bring us further down the road in making the microreactor a reality, with the technology bringing immense benefits for both space and Earth.” The technology will deliver the capability to support commercial and defense use cases and provide a solution to decarbonize industry and clean, safe, and reliable energy.

Our friends at the Association of Old Crows are looking for a few good students to award scholarships to. AOC provides scholarships to students in their sophomore or junior year of college. Each year, one male and one female student studying engineering or engineering technology and interested in working in the aerospace and defense industry is awarded a scholarship of $12,500 each. Students are selected by an independent organization not affiliated with AOC or the AEF. The selected student names, degree program, expected graduation year, essay, and nominations (if any) will be presented to the AEF Scholarship Committee for routine confirmation of the selection process. No financial information is requested. Applications are due no later than April 30 and the winners will be announced by the end of May.

University of Arkansas (go Razorback!) engineering researchers achieved a major milestone with the successful test flight of their electric motor drive on a hybrid electric aircraft, the University announced. The project could lead to significant changes in the aeronautics industry and huge benefits to environmental quality. For the past several years, Alan Mantooth, Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Executive Director of the National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission (NCREPT, has led a groundbreaking project to design and develop battery-powered motor drives that can be used instead of traditional gas-powered engines. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy/Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) CIRCUITS program, the team designed a 250-kilowatt motor drive to power a rear electrical engine in a hybrid electric aircraft testbed developed by Ampaire Inc., an electrified aircraft company located in Southern California. Combining the electric engine with a gasoline-powered engine in the front of the aircraft, this propulsion system enables taxiing, takeoff, cruising, and landing.

Curious about powering ultra-low-power Internet of Things (IoT) technology through radio frequency (RF) energy? The Mississippi State University (go Bulldogs!) Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has the seminar for you. In it, Dr. Yu Luo will use situ soil sensing as an example to demonstrate how underground IoT (UIoT) nodes can effectively harvest RF energy from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for sensing and communication. The talk will cover the development of UIoT nodes from a system-level perspective, detailing the startup circuit, driver, and power management strategy required to receive weak RF energy in the soil. The seminar is scheduled for March 31.

According to Defense Advancement, Perspecta Labs has received a $13 million award to continue the development of an agile, efficient, resilient radio frequency communications solution for the U.S. Army. The system will provide an efficient, agile, and modular RF communications capability to the warfighter to enable successful mission execution in congested and contested environments.

The Inter-Society Committee of the IEEE Microwave Theory and Technology Society (MTT-S) together with the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society (AP-S) is launching an Inter-Society Distinguished Lecturer (ISDL) program. The program is an initiative to promote and strengthen the collaboration between the two societies, MTT announced. It seeks to create an engaging platform for professionals from different backgrounds and disciplines to share their knowledge and experiences. Starting in 2023, one ISDL will be appointed by a joint selection committee every three years – made up of representatives from both MTT-S and AP-S. The chosen lecturer should be internationally renowned experts in the fields of mutual interest, with substantial achievements in their respective areas. They must also possess excellent public speaking skills, enabling them to effectively communicate complex technical concepts and ideas to diverse audiences. Self-nominations are welcomed and encouraged; however, nominations also can come from Technical Committee Chairs, AdCom Members and Chapter Chairs from either society. Nominated candidates will be required to deliver at least three lectures annually throughout their tenure at ISDL. To ensure impartiality, those who have been DML or AP-S DLs within the past 10 years will not be considered for selection. The nomination deadline is April 15.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report identifying key challenges and science questions for the field of High Energy Density (HED) science for the coming decade and proposes ways to address them, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced. The report follows a year-and-a-half-long consensus study by a committee of 13 experts with a breadth of experience in HED science and related fields. “Over the past decade, HED science has had many societal and scientific impacts,” Félicie Albert, deputy director for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said. “It has critical applications in areas ranging from inertial confinement fusion, to the science of materials that are important for sustaining the nation's nuclear deterrent, as well as understanding planets and how they formed and evolved.”

Did you ever wonder who the founding father of Polish RF engineering was? Wonder no more. TME Electronic Components tells the story of Janusz Groszkowski was born in Warsaw in 1898, as well as the stories of dozens of more inventors.

Finally, I didn’t know Daniel L. Cheadle Sr. but the RF and microwave pioneer sure seems to have lived a hell of a life. Rest in peace, Dan.