Air Force

Dynamically reconfigurable micro-strip antenna

Conformal planar antenna with controllable frequency, bandwidth, and beam-pointing


The antenna surface 100 is uniformly covered with a dense array of individual very closely spaced electrically conductive segments or “pixels” 130 (preferably a thin metal layer and square in shape) each joined to adjacent segments by a narrow (square or rectangular) photoconductive connector 140 which is in electrical contact with (or actually overlaps) any two adjacent metallic segments. Each connector 140 is comprised of a photoconductive material made up of CdS, or some variation thereof or substitution therefore, which is optimized  to have a very high electrical conductivity when exposed to light, and which becomes virtually non-conductive in the absence of light.

The development of antennas for use on moving platforms such as aircraft and ground vehicles has not been particularly difficult for low-frequency applications where near-omnidirectional antenna beam patterns provide sufficient radio frequency (RF) gain. However, at higher frequencies an air or ground vehicle antenna must possess a degree of spatial directionality to achieve sufficient gain for effective communication. Such antennas must also have beam-steering capabilities in order to maintain line-of-sight communications. Specific to air platforms, planar electronically phase shift steered antennas are the only option in order to not interfere with aerodynamics.

To fill the technology gap Air Force scientists and engineers have developed an antenna which is; steerable and reconfigurable in terms of operating bandwidth and radiation pattern; planarized yet suitable for conformal applications and; is minimally dependent upon the active circuitry and physical and electrical interconnections that create signal loss and antenna distortion.

The inventive portion of this technology is the reconfigurable antenna feed network having a micro-strip patchwork-radiating surface wherein individual radiating patches and elements of a strip-line feed structure can be connected via photoconductive interconnections. Control software modulates light from light emitting sources on or off, the light being channeled from an underside layer of the antenna to activate the photoconductive interconnections. The resultant disconnections of the radiating patches to each other and to the strip-line feed structure will vary the antenna’s frequency, bandwidth, and beam pointing.

This US patent 8,654,034 is a continuation-in-part of US patent 8,605,004.

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