The Future's bright and ferroelectric

Microelectronics International

ISSN: 1356-5362

Article publication date: 31 July 2007



(2007), "The Future's bright and ferroelectric", Microelectronics International, Vol. 24 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The Future's bright and ferroelectric

The Future's bright and ferroelectric

Researchers at the University of Birmingham's School of Engineering are working towards achieving lower cost mobile phone calls with less interference in built-up areas or when phone traffic is very heavy by using a novel class of materials called ferroelectrics.

Dr Tim Jackson from the University's Department of Electronic, Electrical and Computer Engineering has been building, atom-by-atom, thin ferroelectric films which are less than 1 millionth of 1m thick – a 50th of the width of a human hair – with a wafer of advanced superconducting material on the top.

This futuristic sandwich, combining ferroelectrics and superconductors – materials with no electrical resistance – can be built into mobile phone base stations to enable them to function far more effectively in difficult circumstances.

“With ferroelectrics' says Dr Jackson, lead investigator we can improve the performance of a mobile phone. Static antennas with ferroelectric receivers can replace the rotating dishes now needed by airports to maintain coverage with aircraft, and they can transform local area, intranet systems by ensuring that signals are passed accurately to every individual recipient without any interference”.

“If there was, for example, a major emergency such as a bomb blast in a big city, thousands of people would be trying to use their mobiles, saturating the base stations with calls and clogging the airwaves. Ferroelectric devices, which are similar to those used in smart credit cards, cut out the interference, enabling base stations to handle far more calls simultaneously”.

Funded by a Portfolio Partnership grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, this research is looking to the time when ferroelectrics are routinely used in devices for changing the frequencies and directions of many kinds of radio signals.

Related articles