Graduation Year

2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Electrical Engineering

Major Professor

Gokhan Mumcu, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tom Weller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jing Wang, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rasim Guldiken, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Al-Aakhir Rogers, Ph.D.

Keywords

Liquid Metal, Metallized Plate, Reconfigurable Antenna, High Power, Textile Antenna

Abstract

Reconfigurable radio frequency (RF) devices are attractive for miniaturization of wireless components and systems by handling functionality of multiple distinct devices. Existing reconfiguration techniques rely on device loadings with semiconductor diodes, ferrite/ferroelectric materials, and microelectromechanical system (MEMS) switches and capacitors. However, it is well-recognized that these techniques cannot fully address important system metrics such as high efficiency, wide frequency tuning range, high power handling capability and cost. Therefore, novel alternative techniques are highly desirable to advance the state of the art in reconfigurable RF devices. The aim of this dissertation is to investigate the novel concept of microfluidically loaded reconfigurability within the context of RF antennas and imaging systems. The proposed devices operate based on continuously movable microfluidic loads consisting of metal (liquid/solid) and dielectric solutions. Microfluidics and microfabrication techniques are utilized with flexible/rigid multilayered substrates to maximize the reconfigurable loading effect on the devices and enable highly reconfigurable antennas and imaging array realizations. Specifically, a wideband frequency tunable monopole antenna is introduced by utilizing continuously movable liquid metal within the microfluidic channel as a length varying conductor. By resorting to ultra-thin channel walls, the liquid metal volume overlapping with the microstrip line feed is utilized as a non-radiating capacitive excitation point to achieve the realized 4:1 (1.29GHz – 5.17GHz) frequency tuning range. Subsequently, an alternative design that replaces liquid metal volume with a microfluidically movable metallized plate is introduced. This novel liquid-metal-free implementation alleviates the liquid metal associated drawbacks of reliability, long-term device operation, and efficiency. The antenna is shown to provide 2:1 (1.6GHz – 3.5GHz) frequency tuning range with > 87 % radiation efficient. Due to the high radiation efficiency, the antenna is also capable of handling 15 W of RF power which is 10 W more than its liquid metal counterpart. This metallized plate approach is also suitable for reconfiguration of miniature antennas, and this is demonstrated with the design/implementation of a microfluidically reconfigurable top loaded monopole antenna. It is also suitable for reconfiguration of other structures such as textile antennas – and this is demonstrated with a 0.8GHz to 1.4GHz frequency reconfigurable textile antenna realization. The last section of the dissertation introduces a novel surface imaging array realization by utilizing the microfluidically reconfigurable metallized plate as an RF read-out circuit component. Specifically, a 24 element imaging array is designed and validated to operate within 6 – 12 GHz band with subwavelength resonators to demonstrate the possibility of constructing low-cost high-resolution microwave surface imaging arrays by utilizing the microfluidics based reconfiguration techniques. The presented work emphasizes system level implementation of the proposed devices by integrating them with micropump units, controller boards, and investigating their reliability performances under higher power RF excitations.

Available for download on Saturday, November 18, 2017

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