Miniature MEMS-Based Adaptive Antennas on Flexible Substrates
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Current trends in technology are moving to increased use of wireless communication with rapidly increasing data transmission rates and higher frequencies. Miniaturization is essential to allow electronics of increasing complexity to fit into smaller devices. Adaptive technologies allow a single system to operate across multiple wireless protocols, adjusting to changing conditions to minimize interference and enhance performance. Flexibility is essential as the use of wireless technology increases and spreads to new industries. The objective of this research is twofold: to develop novel reconfigurable electromagnetic structures and a novel process to fabricate microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices on flexible substrates. The novel electromagnetic structures are passive frequency-switchable parasitic antennas, conformal MEMS-tunable frequency selective surfaces (FSS) and MEMS-tunable electromagnetic bandgap (EBG) structures. Fabricating the reconfigurable conformal FSS and EBG structures requires the development of a new fabrication process to produce MEMS devices monolithically integrated onto a flexible substrate. Novel frequency-switchable parasitic antenna arrays are developed, fabricated and measured. The structure radiates efficiently when placed over metal and absorbing material, improving the range of conventional RFID systems, as well as minimizing blind spots to provide continuous coverage in a hemisphere. A novel analysis method is developed to characterize frequency-switchable parasitic patch arrays. The purpose of the analysis is to provide an approximation of the input impedance and variation of the radiation pattern with frequency. The analysis combines models based on electromagnetic theory and circuit theory to provide a fast and yet reasonable approximation of the parasitic array characteristics. The analysis also provides a good deal of physical insight into the operation of multi-mode parasitic patch arrays. The end result is an initial array design which provides a good starting point for full EM simulation and optimization. The new analysis method is validated alongside measured and simulated results, with good correlation for both impedance characteristics and far-field radiation patterns. A MEMS-based switched parasitic antenna array is designed, fabricated and measured with good correlation between simulated and measured results. The structure is a direct-coupled parasitic patch array which is capable of frequency steering and has additional MEMS-enabled beam-steering capabilities at each frequency. An EBG-based multi-mode radiating structure design is presented, which is capable of frequency-switchable beam steering. The antenna area is significantly reduced compared to the parasitic patch array structure, but at a considerable cost in terms of gain and efficiency. A novel MEMS process is developed to fabricate large numbers of high-performance MEMS devices monolithically integrated onto a rigid-flex organic substrate using low-temperature processes. The rigid-flex substrate is all dielectric, which is amenable to low-loss electromagnetic structures. The substrate provides mechanical support to the MEMS devices while maintaining overall flexibility. The adaptation of each fabrication process step to handle flexible substrates is analyzed and documented in detail. The newly-developed MEMS process is used to fabricate a MEMS reconfigurable frequency-selective surface. A practical bias network is incorporated into the structure design to ensure that all devices are actuated simultaneously. FSS structures operating in the Ku and Ka bands are fabricated and tested, with good correlation between simulated and measured results for individual devices as well as the entire FSS structures. The newly-developed MEMS process is also used to fabricate a MEMS reconfigurable electromagnetic bandgap structure. An EBG structure operating in the Ka band is fabricated and tested to verify the validity of the proposed concept.