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British scientists defy the laws of physics to create a flat lens that thinks it’s curved

Scientists from BAE Systems and Queen Mary University of London have seemingly defied the laws of physics by creating a novel composite material which has been used to manufacture a new type of antenna lens.

Composite metamaterials antenna

This breakthrough could revolutionise the design of aircraft, ships, radios and satellite dishes – potentially any product which uses an antenna.

Using a concept known as transformation optics combined with this new artificially engineered composite material known as a metamaterial, the electromagnetic properties of a curved lens have been emulated in a flat panel whilst retaining the same broadband performance. The new composite metamaterials flat antenna lens could be embedded into the skin of an aircraft without compromising aerodynamic performance, representing a major leap forward from current airborne antennas.

BAE Systems is the first company to successfully create a functional composite metamaterial designed using transformational optics which allows a flat lens to perform like a traditional curved lens without any reduction in bandwidth performance. Transformation optics is a concept which allows for control of light or electromagnetic radiation in novel ways. Metamaterials can do things beyond the reach of natural materials and are of significant interest to the scientific community. Whilst traditional metamaterials only operate over narrow frequencies when used in antennas, the new composite material has a greatly extended bandwidth performance. When both transformational optics and the composite materials are applied to antenna design, they have the potential to greatly enhance performance and bandwidth without the need for large dished reflectors or curved lenses.

Dr Sajad Haq from BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre in Bristol said: “The technology developed could lead to us to think differently about aircraft design as well as lowering radar cross sections, provide weight savings or allow miniaturisation of integrated components. Traditional metamaterials suffer from limited bandwidth whereas the new composite metamaterial we have developed for this antenna does not. The project is a great example of academic and industrial collaboration, illustrating perfectly what can be achieved with the right partnerships and skill set.”

Discussing the project, Professor Yang Hao from Queen Mary’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, added: “It’s possible in the future that this research could contribute to the production of even smaller or discrete antennas. This could be useful in all walks of life from telecommunications to healthcare. We’re very pleased that this joint effort between academia and industry has overcome many restrictions on antenna design.”

BAE Systems has an open innovation approach to research and technology and forges mutually beneficial relationships across industries, markets, small businesses and academia to develop the latest and best technologies. By partnering with Queen Mary London, the research will help BAE Systems to develop sensor and communications systems and understand what impact emerging technologies such as transformation optics and novel nano-materials will have on the defence, security and aerospace sector.

The Company is now working with the University to explore additional potential applications and exploitation of transformational optic designs using the novel metamaterials for antennas and other disruptive technologies.

For more information, please contact:

Ian Cubbon, Mischief PR
Tel: +44 (0)20 3128 6583  Mob: +44 (0)7741 249424

Nick Haigh, BAE Systems
Tel: +44 (0) 1252 384719  Mob: +44 (0) 7525 390982