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The project is one of two Spanish initiatives selected under the Samsung Global Research Outreach (GRO) programme, which is providing financial support for 86 projects around the globe this year

Samsung backs UPC-led project to develop graphene-based micro-antennas

Anticipated applications include communication between processors on a single chip and the creation of networks of wireless nanosensors. This is one of the innovations that the UPC will be showcasing at the GSMA Mobile World Congress 2013, the world’s most important mobile technology event, to be held from 25 to 28 February at the Fira Gran Via fairgrounds in Barcelona.

Graphene-enabled Wireless Communications—a proposal submitted by an interdepartmental team based at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC) and the Georgia Institute of Technology (GeorgiaTech)—will receive US$120,000 to develop micrometre-scale graphene antennas capable of transmitting information at a high speed over very short distances. The project will be carried out in the coming months.

The Graphene-Enabled Wireless Communication project, one of the award-winning proposals under the SAMSUNG Global Research Outreach (GRO) programme, aims to use graphene antennas to implement wireless communication over very short distances (no more than a centimetre) with high-capacity information transmission (tens or hundreds of gigabits per second). Antennas made of graphene could radiate electromagnetic waves in the terahertz band and would allow for high-speed information transmission. Thanks to the unique properties of this nanomaterial, the new graphene-based antenna technology would also make it possible to manufacture antennas a thousand times smaller than those currently used.

The GRO programme—an annual call for research proposals by the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (Seoul, South Korea)—has provided the UPC-led project with US$120,000 in financial support.

Improving internal communication in processors
The first stage of the project, launched in October 2012, focuses on the theoretical foundations of wireless communications over short distances using graphene antennas. In particular, the group is analysing the behaviour of electromagnetic waves in the terahertz band for very short distances, and investigating how coding and modulation schemes can be adapted to achieve high transmission rates while maintaining low power consumption.

The most immediate application for high-speed communications over very short distances is in data transmission between the internal components of a single device; for example, between the processor and memory of a mobile phone or computer.

The group believes the main benefits of the project in the medium term will derive from its application for internal communication in multicore processors. Processors of this type have a number of sub-processors that share and execute tasks in parallel. The application of wireless communication in this area will make it possible to integrate thousands of sub-processors within a single processor, which is not feasible with current communication systems.

The results of the project will lead to an increase in the computational performance of these devices. This improvement would allow large amounts of data to be processed at very high speed, which would be very useful for streamlining data management at processing centres (“big data”) used, for example, in systems like Facebook and Google. The project, which builds on previous results obtained with the collaboration of the University of Wuppertal in Germany, the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Sweden, and Georgia Tech in the United States, is expected to yield its first results in April 2013.

The project is being carried out by the NaNoNetworking Center in Catalunya (N3Cat), a network formed at the initiative of researchers with the UPC’s departments of Electronic Engineering and Computer Architecture, together with colleagues at Georgia Tech. Other members of the network are the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of Ohio State University (OSU) in the United States, the Faculty of Electrical and Electronics Engineering of Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey, and the Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG), a research and innovation centre based in Ireland.

The aim of this multidisciplinary team is to investigate and develop communication systems based on nanotechnology or at the nanoscale. N3Cat is headed by Josep Solé-Pareta, a lecturer in the UPC’s Department of Computer Architecture, and Ian Akyildiz of Georgia Tech. The scientific directors are Eduard Alarcón of the UPC’s Department of Electronic Engineering and Albert Cabellos of the Department of Computer Architecture. Two UPC doctoral students, Sergi Abadal and Ignacio Llatser, are also involved in the project.

The UPC will be showcasing this project and its most cutting-edge innovations in the field of mobile technology at the GSMA Mobile World Congress 2013, the world’s most important mobile technology event, to be held from 25 to 28 February at the Fira Gran Via fairgrounds in Barcelona. The UPC, which is the only Spanish public university slated to participate in the MWC, will have its own stand (CZ1) in the App Planet Catalan Zone (Hall 8.1), the area devoted to Catalan technology centres.

Samsung Global Research Outreach (GRO) programme
The UPC project is one of two Spanish initiatives included on Samsung’s list of award-winning proposals (the other was submitted by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona). The groups behind the winning proposals are based at such internationally renowned institutions as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Oxford and Harvard University.

The Samsung GRO programme is an annual call for research proposals that invites submissions from universities worldwide. GRO seeks to identify innovative projects with the potential to have a significant scientific impact. Proposals must be related to one of 15 specified areas, which include biomedical engineering, ICT applications related to medicine and energy, and next generation ICs and interconnections, the area for which the UPC proposal was submitted.

Proposals are evaluated by the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) based on their novelty. Samsung provides gift funding for the selected research projects, with various research groups receiving assistance to help them develop joint patents. Internationally, there are few companies that engage in this form of sponsorship; in addition to Samsung, they include Google, Intel and Cisco Systems.

This year 86 proposals were selected. Each project was given a cash award of between US$50,000 and US$100,000. Funding may be renewed for up to three years, and in each case Samsung also awards 20% of the amount of the gift to the funded institution (on top of the amount given for the project).

Leaders in graphene research
The UPC is participating in a number of projects related to graphene, a rapidly emerging field of research, especially since 2010 when Russian physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their innovative experiments involving this nanomaterial.

Graphene is a nanomaterial composed of one-atom thick sheets of carbon. The graphene revolution was sparked by a discovery made by the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics, who in 2004 managed to isolate the material and obtain very small samples of pure graphene. This opened the door to the study of potential technological applications of the material, which offers high mechanical strength, transparency and very high electrical conductivity.

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