‘As far as I know, this is the smallest complete radar system in the world,’
EU-funded researchers have squeezed radar technology into a low-cost fingernail-sized chip package that promises to lead to a new range of distance and motion sensing applications. The novel device could have important uses in the automotive industry, as well as mobile devices, robotics and other applications.
Developed in the ‘Silicon-based ultra-compact cost-efficient system design for mm-wave sensors’ ( Success) project, the device is the most complete silicon-based ‘system-on-chip’ (SoC) package for radar operating at high frequencies beyond 100 GHz.
‘As far as I know, this is the smallest complete radar system in the world,’ says Prof. Christoph Scheytt, who is coordinating the project on behalf of IHP in Frankfurt, Germany. ‘There are other chips working at frequencies beyond 100 GHz addressing radar sensing, but this is the highest level of integration that has ever been achieved in silicon.’
Measuring just 8 mm by 8 mm, the chip package is the culmination of three years of research by nine academic and industrial partners across Europe, supported by EUR 3 million in funding from the European Commission. The team drew on expertise from every part of the microelectronic development chain to develop the groundbreaking technology, which is expected to be put to use in commercial applications in the near future.
Operating at 120 GHz – corresponding to a wavelength of about 2.5 mm – the chip uses the run time of the waves to calculate the distance of an object up to around three metres away with an accuracy of less than one millimetre. It can also detect moving objects and calculate their velocity using the Doppler effect.
From a commercial perspective, the technology is also extremely cheap: manufactured on an industrial scale, each complete miniature radar would cost around one euro, the project partners estimate.
That gives it the potential to replace ultrasonic sensors for object and pedestrian detection in vehicles, to be used for automatic door control systems, to measure vibration or distance inside machines, for robotics applications and a wide range of other uses. It could even find its way into cell phones.
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