Reconfigurable surfaces extend 6G network coverage
The future mobile communications standard 6G will enable many new applications and increasing networking of devices. The use of high frequency ranges increases the maximum achievable bandwidth for data transmission in 6G networks. Energy losses on the radio link and radio shadowing caused by buildings, for example, pose a challenge. This significantly reduces the possible network coverage compared with the use of lower frequencies. To compensate for these disadvantages, the number of active transmitting antennas in the coverage area can be increased. Another solution is to intelligently influence the propagation of radio waves. So-called reconfigurable surfaces, which are attached to a house wall, for example, are promising for this purpose. These can change their surface properties to specifically control the reflection of 6G radio waves. This process is also much more energy-efficient, as fewer active transmitters are needed.
Goals and Approach
The aim of the “Liquid Crystal Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces” (6G-LICRIS) project is to develop reconfigurable surfaces. New materials based on liquid crystals are being developed for this purpose. Compared to semiconductor materials, these are better suited for higher frequencies. The newly developed technology will be integrated into a test mobile radio network to investigate radio wave propagation using the reflective surfaces. Finally, the researchers plan to integrate the 6G-LICRIS technology into a real radio environment to demonstrate end-to-end data transmissions in the real mobile network.
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Innovations and Perspectives
The use of high frequency ranges is an important component of future radio systems, especially for 6G. It will be essential to take wave propagation characteristics into account in the new usage scenarios. The technology to be developed in the project can be used here in the future as an energy-efficient variant and help keep the number of active antennas low. The configurable surfaces can be used effectively and in a targeted manner, especially in densely populated areas and in industry. They help improve network coverage and dynamically adapt the mobile network to changing radio transmission requirements. Researching and supplying novel liquid crystals at the German site also contributes to technological sovereignty in Germany and Europe.
Partners in 6G-LICRIS
- Rohde & Schwarz GmbH & Co. KG, Munich
- Ericsson Antenna Technology Germany GmbH, Rosenheim
- MERCK Merck KGaA, Darmstadt
- IMST GmbH, Kamp-Lintfort
- brown-iposs GmbH, Bonn
- Fraunhofer HHI, Berlin
- University of Stuttgart
- Technical University of Berlin
- Ericsson Germany GmbH (EDD), Herzogenrath (associated partner)
- Airbus Defence and Space GmbH, Munich (associated partner)
- Robert Bosch GmbH, Hildesheim (associated partner)
- NXP Semiconductors Germany GmbH, Hamburg (associated partner)
- m4 wireless GmbH, Berlin (associated partner)
6G-LICRIS is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research by the program about “6G industry projects to explore holistic systems and sub-technologies for 6th generation mobile communications”.