Focus on innovation: Origami antennas

 

When critical data matters, finding better ways to transmit it can save time, money and even lives. A professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has taken giant leaps toward solving problems that hamper the transmission of crucial information.

Stavros Georgakopoulos holds a patent for “origami antennas.” Inspired by the Japanese art of paper folding—with its mathematical underpinning—his lightweight version of the traditionally bulky equipment has huge implications. For example, soldiers in the field have for years shared intelligence with base stations by relying on heavy, cumbersome metal antennas that often must be transported by hand or in backpacks over rough terrain. At a fraction of the weight, the model made possible by Georgakopoulos —he mainly uses paper (inkjet-printed with copper and silver to serve as conductors) but is exploring flexible plastics and other materials—can be stowed compactly, opened easily and collapsed quickly. The launching of satellite antennas during space missions would likewise be improved. The invention, research for which was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, is now being brought to market via his startup company and has generated talks with the military and a private aerospace firm.

Also helping to keep the data flowing: Georgakopoulos’ innovations in wireless power transfer and wireless communications. He holds two patents focused on eliminating the need for batteries—which can be both time-consuming and expensive to replace—across a variety of devices. These include instruments that measure vital statistics, sensors that monitor environmental conditions when mounted on airplanes or cars, and even sensors that can be embedded within the concrete poured to build new bridges. The last could provide feedback regarding a structure’s soundness for 100 or more years, Georgakopoulos says. Free of batteries, any of these devices can last indefinitely, he adds.

Having worked in industry for six years before joining FIU in 2007, Georgakopoulos combines the engineer’s passion for solving problems with the professor’s love of research and teaching.

“Whatever we do, we try to be innovative and make a difference in the world,” he says of the team working in his campus lab. “That’s what excites my students, the innovative applications that can have a transformative impact.”  ♦

Posted by × 03/01/2017 at 5:55 am

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