Images send by stars

The research team of the Public University of Navarre (Basque Country), under the supervision of professor Ramon Gonzalo Garcia of the department of Electric and Electronic Engineering, is participating in a project of the European Space Agency. The final objective is the design of a camera that, working in the range of millimetric frequencies, will be able to obtain images send by different bodies, for example, stars.

The project named “Photonic antenna front-ends: Photonic crystals: Materials selection and fabrication. RF design of a photonic bandgap antenna” has a budget of 450,000 euros. Researchers of Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (England), the University of Eindhoven (Holland) and the company CMP of Madrid participate in this project. CMP will participate in the first stage of development of the project.

Image camera

An image camera allows seeing images that are not usually captured. For example, in the frequency in which this equipment works, the camera is able to see through the clothes. In fact, some companies are interested to commercialise it.

The applications of astronomy allow making a complete study of the space, as the main part of gas emissions, such as hydrogen or helium, are within this range of frequency. They are also interesting for the atmospheric research, where atmospheric effects may be study from a new perspective. The European Space Agency is interested in both applications.

Applications in medicine

The research team of the Public University of Navarre is working specifically in the integration of antennas on PBG technology to reach the final receptor. This technology is based on PBG structures that are periodic artificial dielectrics. They can prevent the spreading of electromagnetic waves in any direction of space.

The main problems found in this type of technology are the high price and the excessive volume (limiting the number of pixels) of the components. However, new lithographic techniques reduce the cost, volume and enable the production and the assembly. In addition, the actual development of the “Photonic Band Gap” (PGB) structures avoid the connection by undesirable waves between the flat antenna and enable the integration of active elements together with those antennas. All that has drawn the attention on the development of image cameras (CCD) in this range of frequencies, so that in a near future they may be applied in many other fields, such as medicine, communications, security or aeronautics.

These applications can be used in autonomous systems of airplane landings, systems that avoid the collision of autos and systems of air-traffic control. All that is possible because the millimetric frequencies are transparent in certain materials. In addition, they can see through clothes, smoke, clouds, windows, paper and even skin. That way, they could be used to detect skin cancer.

The project in which the researchers of the Public University of Navarre are working is being developed in two phases. In the first one, they are working in the design of PBG structures that then will be produced in England, in the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. In the second phase of the project the antenna will be produced, also in England.

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