Advanced Materials and Manufacturing,
ASA(ALT),
Phase I

Metamaterial Based Antenna

Release Date: 03/30/2021
Open Date: 05/18/2021
Application Due Date: 05/18/2021
Close Date: 05/18/2021
Solicitation: 21.4
Topic Number: A214-029
Duration: 6 months
Amount Up To: $256K

Topic Objective 

The SBIR objective is to create an antenna design for satellite communication bands, including Ku, K, and Ka bands, based on metamaterials to decrease size, weight, performance and cost (SWaP-C) and increase antenna bandwidth, improve signal reception, and provide a higher gain. The antenna design would be developed for Army Aviation platforms with a focus on a low profile and a conformal fit, while maintaining optimal performance to allow installation on non-ideal surfaces encountered in the adverse aviation environment. The SBIR would also characterize the potential gains and tradeoffs of such a metamaterial-based topology. 

Description  

Army aviation has the need of a broadband antenna with reduced size and weight while obtaining enhanced power efficiency and ultrawide bandwidth (UWB) frequency capability. Such a capability would contribute to the Army’s superiority in multiple abilities, to include conducting joint air-ground operations, maintaining manned-unmanned teams, and operating in contested airspace. In addition, a physically low profile is needed for airborne applications to maintain aircraft aerodynamics and minimize surface clutter and interaction with other pre-existing equipment. Airborne platforms have limited surface area for antenna mounting, and it is often non-electrically conductive. These constraints require the antenna(s) to be “electrically small,” with a total height less than one quarter of a wavelength at its center frequency. It is envisioned that emerging developments and technology using metamaterials could provide a solution for such an antenna. 

The focus of this SBIR is to conduct research culminating in the development of a metamaterial-based antenna that will provide the desired performance for aircraft applications. Metamaterials are artificial engineered materials that possess a negative index of refraction for an isotropic medium. Their properties can be tailored to provide anomalous interactions with the electromagnetic field. These electromagnetic interactions include the effect of causing the electromagnetic waves phase and group velocity to have a reversed direction of propagation with the respect to the direction of energy flow, as well as, preventing reflected and scattered radiation return on active antenna surfaces.  Utilization of left-handed materials (LHM), such as double negative materials (DNG) and epsilon near-zero permittivity (ENZ) materials enable the antenna size to be reduced while increasing the antenna efficiency and bandwidth. Legacy techniques, such as, utilization of split ring resonators (SRR) and complimentary SRRs (CSRR) in the substrate and superstrate of the PCB based antennas are known to increase the radio frequency (RF) bandwidth and directivity by manipulation of permittivity and permeability in specific frequency bands.    

Much metamaterial research and work has been competed during the last fifteen years. The challenge presented in this SBIR will be to combine multiple efforts and create a product that can perform in the aviation adverse environment and endure that grueling environment without failure in high operational situations. This also implies that the antenna must survive in extreme environmental conditions, to include heavy rainfall, high heat desert type temperatures, very cold environments covered with ice and snow, and continual abrading due to small particles such as sand.  

The antenna is expected to interface with a 50 Ohm coaxial cable with a suitable high frequency capable connector. If power is required, it will be derived from 28 VDC aircraft power. 

Phase I 

The purpose of Phase I is to determine the engineering feasibility of designing and antenna with tri-band performance in portions of Ku, K, and Ka band. An engineering study will be conducted to explore the options and the design space of what is possible from a SWaP and antenna performance perspective. The trade space will include frequency bandwidth, antenna gain, and antenna efficiency versus the antenna height, length, width, and weight. Projected radiation patterns and polarization predictions are also required. The Army needs adequate antenna parameters and characteristics to predict how well the antenna would perform at various aircraft installation points. The antenna should also be capable of transmitting at least 40 Watts in the same bands.  The primary objectives of Phase I are: 

  1. Determine the feasibility of designing and airborne capable antenna Ku, K, and Ka tri-band operation.
  2. Develop a preliminary antenna design that would be compatible for the AH-64E (attack helicopter), CH-47F (heavy lift helicopter), UH-60M (medium lift helicopter), and Future Vertical Lift (FVL).
  3. Develop a concept of operation showing how the antenna could be utilized in Ku, K, and Kaband radio frequency (RF) scenarios (i.e., link distances and incident angles with respect to the aircraft).  
  4. Perform an analysis of how the antenna would perform on top,side and bottom installations for AH-64E, CH-47F, UH-60M, and FVL aircraft. The analysis should also include rotor blade masking effects at various pitch angles and expected RPMs. 

Phase I deliverables will include a feasibility report outlining the gaps and path forward needed for implementation and cover all four areas lists above at a minimum. 

Phase II 

Develop a proof of concept/prototype capable of demonstrating RF link performance in Ku, K, and Ka bands. 

Phase II deliverables will include functional antenna hardware, completed antenna design, and antenna test results including radiation patterns, gain, and input reflection coefficient (S11) versus frequency. 

Phase III 

The expectation is to broadly field the metamaterial-based antenna across Army Aviation. Phase III will consist of all the required acquisition activities required to transition the capability to full-rate production. The small business is expected to obtain the funding from non-SBIR government and private sector sources to transition the technology into viable commercial products. Specific military applications may include AH-64E, CH-47F, UH-60M, and FVL capability. 

Submission Information  

To submit full proposal packages, and for more information, visit the DSIP Portal.   

References:
  1. M. Palandoken, A. Grede, and H. Henke, “Broadband Microstrip Antenna with Left-Handed Metamaterials,” IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation, vol. 57, no. 2, Feb., pp. 331-338, 2009.  
  2. A. Pandey and S. Rana, “Review of Metamaterials, Types and Design Approaches,” An International Journal of Engineering Sciences, vol. 17, Jan., pp. 360-364, 2016.  
  3. J. Soric, N. Engheta, S. Maci, and A. Alu, “Omnidirectional Metamaterial Antennas Based on Epsilon-Near-Zero Channel Matching,” IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation, vol. 61, no. 1, Jan., pp. 33-43, 2013. 
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