You might have seen Michael Dickey‘s research featured on ncsu.edu in December. Yesterday, The Economist wrote about the engineering professor’s work on flexible and durable antennas, above. They’re made of gallium and indium, are liquid at room temperature, can be stretched and folded into different shapes and sizes, and are hard to destroy. Good for civilian use? Sure. But they could be great for the military:
Civilians, for the most part, take them for granted, but the armed forces know just how easily an antenna can be destroyed in a war zone—with potentially catastrophic consequences. Now, a technology that allows antennas to bend fluidly and “self heal” as they get whacked around in the chaos of war could make using them a great deal easier.
The technology also could have applications in structures such as bridges and dams:
If lots of flexible antennas attached to small radio sets were placed inside a bridge, they would expand or contract along with the bridge and so would constantly retune themselves. Engineers monitoring the bridge would just need to scan them with radio waves to see which wavelength they responded to, in order to find out what was going on.
(Photograph courtesy of NC State News Services)