The MIMICRA (Metamaterial Inspired Microwave Conformal Radar Antenna) project, which came to an end last month, shows how new materials and design techniques can improve the performance of antennas.
Metamaterials are artificially engineered materials that have been altered to exhibit properties not found in nature. Research and development of metamaterials is a rapidly growing field, which could eventually result in a huge range of new applications for both the civilian and military domains. An important area of research is concerned with new antennas for applications, such as communications, EW (Electronic Warfare), or even multifunctional sensing. This purpose behind the MIMCRA project was to show how antennas developed using metamerials can provide significantly higher levels of performance than conventionally developed antennas.
The project perfomed a study which established a robust set of requirements for three different types of antennas. These requirements outlined the limitations of current antennas and considered possible applications of new materials and designs, focusing particularly on benefits for aeronautical platforms.
Building on this study, demonstrator structures were developed (see picture above) that pushed the boundaries of material design and illustrated how using metamaterials could produce antennas with performance levels significantly greater than those using conventionial design methods and materials.
The research performed highlighted the enhancements that these new approaches can bring, however more work is needed before these technologies can produce commercially viable solutions.
The project was managed and funded by France and the UK, within the framework of the European Defence Agency. The work was carried out by a wide consortium of different companies and universities: Airbus, Dassault Aviation, Thales, Telecom ParisTech, Institut d’Électronique Fondamentale, BAE Systems, MBDA (UK), Queen Mary College London, and Oxford University.