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Spray-on antennas may turn objects into connected technology

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Scientists have developed a method for spraying invisibly thin antennas on to flexible materials, an advance that could turn a variety of objects and surfaces into a seamless Internet of Things.

Researchers from Drexel University in the US used a type of two-dimensional, metallic material called MXene, that perform as well as those being used in mobile devices, wireless routers, and portable transducers.

The exceptional conductivity of the material enables it to transmit and direct radio waves, even when it is applied in a very thin coating.

Preserving transmission quality in a form this thin is significant because it would allow antennas to easily be embedded – literally, sprayed on – in a wide variety of objects and surfaces without adding additional weight or circuitry or requiring a certain level of rigidity.

Initial testing of the sprayed antennas suggests that they can perform with the same range of quality as current antennas, which are made from familiar metals, like gold, silver, copper, and aluminum, but are much thicker than MXene antennas.

Making antennas smaller and lighter has long been a goal of materials scientists and electrical engineers, so this discovery is a sizeable step forward both in terms of reducing their footprint as well as broadening their application.


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