Revolutionising electronic communications circuitry

20 October 2015

Loughborough University has been awarded £3.9 million to develop a totally new way of designing and fabricating high frequency communications circuitry.

The funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will be used to establish the SYMETA – SYnthesising 3D METAmaterials for RF, microwave and THz applications – research programme.

Current conventional printed circuit board manufacturing and assembly processes involve harsh chemicals, etching, high volumes of water and high temperatures. SYMETA’s aim is to employ metamaterial technology to construct the circuits and reduce significantly both the number of processes involved in the circuit manufacture and the components soldered onto the boards.

Metamaterials are engineered composite materials that have certain electromagnetic properties not normally found in nature, and can therefore be designed to create high frequency circuitry like that found in mobile phones.

SYMETA’s research has the potential for significant academic, economic, societal and environmental impacts. With rapid advancements in the development of metamaterials the possibilities for innovative applications across many sectors are significant. Industries that could benefit from the research include aviation, space, healthcare and the military. Employing the advanced manufacturing techniques that the consortium will develop will also remove the need for the harsh chemicals typically used in the manufacture of traditional circuit boards, thereby offering significant environmental benefits.

The SYMETA team will be led by Professor Yiannis Vardaxoglou from Loughborough University. The other research partners include the Universities of Exeter, Oxford, Sheffield and Queen Mary, University of London.

Speaking about the consortium, Professor Vardaxoglou said introducing these novel structures into the complex world of electronic design will offer a radical new way of designing and manufacturing electronics at low cost. 

The funding for SYMETA was announced by Science Minister Jo Johnson, who was unveiling a £21 million investment by the EPSRC into research that aims to tackle some of the major challenges facing science and engineering.

Speaking about the £21 million EPSRC funding, Science Minister Jo Johnson said as a One Nation Government they are investing in world-class science and engineering across the country. They want the UK to be the best place in Europe to innovate and this £21 million investment will bring together the nation’s researchers to address some of the most pressing engineering challenges we face.

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