Many 5G wireless networks promise high transfer rates, low latencies, and support for more simultaneously connected devices, enabling new applications in areas spanning the internet of things, autonomous vehicles, industrial automation, smart cities, and virtual and augmented reality. However, 5G signals have a short range, increasing power consumption and heat dissipation requirements for infrastructure while greatly increasing the density of base stations needed compared to existing mobile networks, slowing rollout, increasing costs, and impacting sustainability.
Many companies have developed improved technologies to make 5G networks more sustainable and feasible by improving energy efficiency, increasing range, and improving signal directionality. For example, companies like Nokia, Huawei, and Laird have developed massive MIMO base stations with large numbers of antennas, whereas chemical companies including DuPont, Kaneka, Toyobo, Toray, Daikin, Celanese, Kuraray, Solvay, and Rogers Corporation have developed improved antenna substrate materials for millimeter-wave 5G frequency bands. Still, as demand for high-performing antennas and 5G devices continues to increase and push the limits of available materials, better solutions are necessary.
Solution and impact
META offers a path to efficient, effective, green 5G. The company develops metamaterials, which are films and surfaces patterned at the micro- and nanoscale to achieve electromagnetic performance characteristics that are fundamentally unachievable by any bulk material solution. In the context of 5G, metamaterial antennas enable a smaller size, lower power consumption, and greater beamforming and directionality than current materials. In addition, the company developed a 2D metasurface with Sekisui Chemical for use in interior 5G applications that passively reflects signals in the 3.5-to-6-GHz frequency range. These signals are easily blocked by obstacles, so this film helps spread signals throughout a building when placed on walls, windows, and other structures. The films are optically transparent (95% transmittance) and have an adhesive backing, so they can be placed over other objects without disrupting sightlines or creating unnecessary visual noise. This improves 5G signals and reliability without increasing power consumption while reducing the need for base stations to satisfy communication needs in interior spaces.
Strategy and outlook
META has worked closely with materials companies to develop films and equipment for fast, cost-effective production of metasurfaces, acquired roll-to-roll lithography and nanoimprint lithography assets and IP to improve its production processes, and developed its own IP and software tools to enable rapid in-house design of metamaterials with specific desired properties. Because metamaterials are fundamentally a design technology, META can rapidly adapt its technology to meet customer- and application-specific performance requirements. Through its own technology, acquisitions, and partnerships, the company has become a leader in metamaterial design and production, with experience across a wide range of applications, including 5G, as well as many of the applications that 5G expands and enables, such as autonomous vehicles, sensing, and augmented reality.
George Palikaras, CEO and founder of META, will be receiving the Innovator of the Year award at the Lux Executive Summit on October 5 on behalf of META. He will present the innovation, what went into making it successful, how it aligns with sustainability goals, and how the team leveraged Lux Research to enable its efforts. Click here for more information about the 2021 Lux Executive Summit and how to participate.