Saturday, March 20, 2010

Antennas That Bend, Stretch, and Twist

Via US News & World Report

Antennas That Bend, Stretch and Twist 

Researchers have created a new type of antenna made of liquid metal that can bend, stretch and twist, then return to its original shape, an advance in technology that could lead to new uses where resiliency is especially important--in the military, for example, or for rugged outdoor activities. 
The scientists made the antennas by injecting an alloy made of the metals gallium and indium, which remains in liquid form at room temperature, into very small hollow channels the width of a human hair. They used elastic silicone channels to hold their alloy, and then fashioned wire-like antennas out of the material. The channels, which resemble straws that are open at both ends, can be manipulated into a variety of shapes.
Once the alloy has filled the channel, the surface of the alloy oxidizes, creating a “skin” that holds the alloy in place, while allowing it to retain its liquid properties. "Because the alloy remains a liquid, it takes on the mechanical properties of the material encasing it,” Dickey said. 
Another discovery: "If you cut this device just through the metal--not all the way through--it comes back together," Dickey said. "You can partially damage it, and it will self-heal."
Since the frequency of an antenna is determined by its shape, "you can tune these antennas by stretching them," Dickey said. 


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