News Feature | March 4, 2023

Back Channel — The Shortest Electron Pulses Ever, New EW Warfare Device Causing Concern Among Ukrainian Forces, AR Headset Gives Wearer X-ray Vision, And More

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By John Oncea, Editor


Back Channel presents the most captivating news and innovations in RF and microwaves. This week, we look at the projected growth of the RF Interconnect market, explore hidden universes, celebrate Hispanic visionaries, and more.

The Brainy Insights has released a report estimating that the RF Interconnect market will grow from $30.6 billion in 2022 and reach $62.48 billion by 2032, driven by the increasing use of radio frequency cables in telecommunication, military, and aerospace. Promising government initiatives, increasing construction activities, advancing manufacturing facilities, and rising investments in recent infrastructures are some factors pushing the demand for RF to interconnect elements in the Asia Pacific region. Asia Pacific is expected to account for the largest market size during the forecast period while key end users should be construction, aerospace & defense, oil & gas, IT & telecommunication, and consumer electronics.

“The shortest electron pulses ever made in the lab have been claimed by researchers in Germany,” reports Physics World. “By firing ultrashort laser pulses at a tungsten nanotip, the team created electron pulses just 53 attoseconds (53×10–18 s) long and then characterized the pulses using a new technique.” Researchers at the University of Rostock developed the technique by firing an intense laser pulse “at a tungsten nanotip that is just 70 nm in diameter at its apex. This causes the emission of a pulse of electrons from the tip. Crucially, the laser pulse is so short that it comprises less than one cycle of the light (about 2 fs). This ensures that the emitted electron pulse is not buffeted around by an oscillating electric field, but instead the electric field gives the electrons a precisely controlled kick in the right direction.” With the ability to probe matter at both picometre spatial scales and attosecond timescales, the technique could open a new window into the nanoworld.

“There’s a hidden universe out there, radiating at wavelengths and frequencies we can’t see with our eyes,” writes The National Radio Astronomy Observatory. As a result, radio astronomy has been developing and revealing the otherwise-hidden characteristics of everything in the universe. “Each object in the cosmos gives off unique patterns of radio emissions that allow astronomers to get the whole picture of a distant object. Radio astronomers study emissions from gas giant planets, blasts from the hearts of galaxies, or even precisely ticking signals from a dying star.”

MIT researchers have developed a circuit architecture that targets and blocks unwanted signals at a receiver’s input without hurting its performance by borrowing a technique from digital signal processing and tweaking the device to enable it to work effectively in a radio frequency system across a wide frequency range. “We are interested in developing electronic circuits and systems that meet the demands of 5G and future generations of wireless communication systems. In designing our circuits, we look for inspirations from other domains, such as digital signal processing and applied electromagnetics. We believe in circuit elegance and simplicity and try to come up with multifunctional hardware that doesn’t require additional power and chip area,” says senior author Negar Reiskarimian, the X-Window Consortium Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and a core faculty member of the Microsystems Technology Laboratories.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa has published three Second Draft Frequency Spectrum Assignment Plans (RFSAPs) for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) systems for further public consultation. The Authority had previously published ten RFSAPs for public consultation but, in light of the submissions made by stakeholders, the Authority determined that three of the 10 bands require a further round of consultation.

The three bands are:

  • 450 MHz to 470 MHz
  • 825 MHz to 830 MHz and 870 MHz to 875 MHz
  • 1427 MHz to 1518 MHz

“It is in the interest of the sector to delay the finalization of the three RFSAPs in question, and to engage in a second round of consultation to establish all the factors to be considered to ensure that the spectrum can be awarded to the most valuable user shortly”, says Chairperson of the Council Committee, Cllr Charley Lewis.

“A new electronic warfare device that blocks the communication channels of drones is causing concern among Ukrainian forces,” writes Defense Mirror. “The device, called ‘Strizh-3’ electronic warfare (EW) system works by suppressing the communication and control channel of surveillance drones as they pass overhead.” The device, no bigger than a football, can be mounted on a small tripod and camouflaged, unlike regular EW systems which are mounted on armored vehicles or placed atop drones.

Ruder Finn has launched the RF Comunicad Collective, a Hispanic network of visionaries committed to helping corporations connect their brands to the Latino population to empower this community. The launch is the cultivation of RF Comunicad’s 30 years of relationship building with a strategically selected network of Hispanic leaders, influencers, visionaries, and representatives of hundreds of national and local organizations that serve the Latino community. These organizations reach Latino audiences successfully through the implementation of initiatives in the U.S. and abroad. The Collective comes together with a commitment to help corporations connect their brands to the growing Latino population to empower this community. “At RF Comunicad, cultural intelligence is the guiding light to create meaningful, targeted initiatives with the knowledge that to build trust, companies need to be intentional in their multicultural efforts. The Collective partners know the importance of having a deep understanding of the Latino community to successfully reach that audience,” said Gloria Rodriguez, President of RF Comunicad.

Finally, Tech Xplore reports a team of MIT researchers has built an augmented reality headset that gives the wearer X-ray vision by “combining computer vision and wireless perception to automatically locate a specific item that is hidden from view, perhaps inside a box or under a pile, and then guide the user to retrieve it.” The system utilizes RF signals to find hidden items that have been labeled with RFID tags, which reflect signals sent by an RF antenna. “Our whole goal with this project was to build an augmented reality system that allows you to see things that are invisible — things that are in boxes or around corners — and in doing so, it can guide you toward them and truly allow you to see the physical world in ways that were not possible before,” says Fadel Adib, who is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the director of the Signal Kinetics group in the Media Lab, and the senior author of a paper on X-AR.