Menglou Rao awarded Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship to support research in antennas for compact systems and EM radiation detection from biofilms

Rao’s research in miniaturized antennas is applicable to VHF band and 5G applications

Menglou Rao Enlarge

Menglou Rao, doctoral candidate in electrical and computer engineering (ECE), has been awarded a Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship to support her research in miniaturized antennas for compact systems and in detection of electromagnetic radiation from biological samples.

Her proposed dissertation title is “Miniaturized Antennas and Radiation Measurement Techniques for Extremely Small Electromagnetic Systems.” She is advised by Kamal Sarabandi, Rufus S. Teesdale Professor of Engineering.

In all areas of electromagnetics, says Rao, electrically small radiation systems are of great importance both in real-world applications and in fundamental research. At low frequencies, the prohibitively large size of conventional antennas is one of the major issues in realizing compact communication systems. The implementation of small antennas enables the use of compact systems in mobile platforms.

At millimeter-wave (mmWave) frequencies, miniaturized antennas are also highly desirable, especially for 5G smartphones.

However, the fundamental tradeoff between the antenna size and performance limits the use of small antennas. On the measurement side, small radiation systems such as biological cells generate extremely weak signals. Therefore, special measurement techniques are required for detecting such signals.

Rao’s thesis first focuses on highly efficient miniaturized antennas. She designed an extremely low-profile monopole antenna for very high frequency (VHF) applications. She is currently working on a dual-band dual-polarized mmWave array for 5G smartphones.

Another key aspect of the thesis is the measurement of radiation from biological samples. Key issues with measuring extremely weak signals are addressed. A system designed by Rao and her colleagues was able to detect very weak radiation from biofilms in the 3 GHz band.

“To the best of our knowledge,” said Rao, “this is the first time that GHz electromagnetic signals from biological samples have been observed in the lab.”

She next plans to identify the nature of the information being exchanged.

“If we can truly understand the communication mechanisms in biofilms,” Rao said, “we may be able to disrupt the communication of infectious bacteria and improve cancer and disease treatments.”