The objective of this research is to explore reconfigurable phased array antennas that are directly integrated with solar cells to form multi-functional panels. The approach is to integrate smart combinations of transparent mesh antennas and slot antennas on or around solar cells, and then to creatively excite the antennas to achieve multiple diversity.
Intellectual Merit: This research solves one of the most important problems in space exploration by integrating electromagnetics with solar cells. The project addresses fundamentals of optimal antenna elements with minimal impact on solar cells, integration of active electronics with antennas on solar panels, and reconfigurablility. The development will yield active phased reconfigurable antenna array integrated on solar panels for very high data rate communication, transmitting energy harvested from space, and for low cost space mission by re-using one panel for multiple flights. None of those advantages can be achieved by traditional antennas.
Broader Impacts: Besides satellite applications, the proposed integration technique can be employed to form self-powered ground receivers. Research outcomes can be easily adapted to integration of antennas with composite surfaces such as wings of unmanned aerial vehicle for various applications. On the education side, this collaborative effort with industry will create exciting hands-on projects in undergraduate classrooms, senior designs, and summer internship opportunities. The industry partner will take the leadership in commercializing the proposed technology from laboratory to ready-to-implement level, which will directly impact urban communication, renewable energy research, and space weather monitoring.