2 Minutes with Christophe Caloz
September 24, 2013
With consumers looking for wireless communications that are fast, reliable and omnipresent, radio and communication engineers face ever-growing challenges in meeting demand. In short, the wireless spectrum is getting overcrowded, making bandwidth more expensive and slowing down data. There’s a demand for radio solutions that offer higher processing efficiency than the digital signal processing currently in use.
Christophe Caloz is a research leader in the field of electromagnetic engineering who is developing a new generation of artificial semiconductor substances that are engineered to perform functions not possible with naturally occurring materials.
Our research meets three basic criteria: novelty, utility and depth, and we believe that it is by working at the intersection of these three circles that we are able to optimally fulfill our mission for Canadian taxpayers.
Our group is active in radio science and wireless technology, and our research can be divided into two main streams: on the one hand, electromagnetic metamaterials and, on the other hand, real-time radio. A metamaterial is an artificial material composed of small particles that play the role that atoms or molecules play in conventional materials, but that have properties not found in atoms or molecules. These artificial molecules can take many different forms, at different scales, namely milli, micro and nanometer. They can be composed of various substances, which themselves have various properties. Consequently, these metamaterials are much lighter, more compact, compatible with integrated circuits and capable of reaching virtually unlimited frequencies.
Our second research stream is based on a fundamental property of metamaterials, dispersion, whereby the index of refraction and therefore the induced phase are strongly dependent on the frequency of the signal. We are now able, for the first time, to very precisely control this phase function through new components called phasers.
Here we have an example of phasers used in waveguide technology or planar technology. As you can see, some of them are in the form of small chips and can be easily inserted into a portable, phone for instance. Existing communications systems operate at frequencies of one to five gigahertz and are heavily based on digital technology. The problem is that transmission channels are very congested at those frequencies. To achieve far greater capabilities, we have to use much higher frequencies, but at such frequencies digital technology is ineffective or no longer works. We must therefore enter a new paradigm and that is precisely what our real-time radio will offer in the future.
NSERC funding is vital to the advancement of research in Canada. It is critical to medium- and long-term research, which will allow us to shape the science and technology landscape of tomorrow. From that perspective, NSERC offers excellent programs that are the envy of many of our international colleagues.