PORTLAND, Ore. -- Beam-steerable phased-array antennas--a technology perfected by the military for tight, secure radio-frequency (RF) communications--will become commonplace in residential communications soon, according to Pinyon Technologies Inc., a startup co-founded by Gil Amelio--the former CEO of Apple Computer and National Semiconductor. Today, Pinyon is coming out of its research-and-development phase with a dozen claimed design wins for the Airwire antenna.
These 2.4-to-5.8-GHz antennas, based on a proprietary shorted-slot technology that adds only 25 cents to a bill-of-materials. Siemens Home and Office Communication Devices is Pinyon's latest design win for Bluetooth and ultra-wide-band (UMB) devices--together called Turbo Bluetooth.
Pinyon also claims a dozen other original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are licensing its antenna for WiFi, WiMax and Wireless USB devices, and soon for both 3G and 4G mobile phones, the design wins it plans to announce by 2008.
"Today Siemens is the market leader for cordless phones, and number one or number two for WiFi gateways and routers in Europe. But there are 1.5 million new Bluetooth users each week that need more range out of their antennas," said Nicholas Ord, vice president of innovations at Siemens Home and Office Communication Devices GmbH & Co. "We want to provide that added range in a new product line for Bluetooth users. We tried all the vendors' antennas and found that we got more bang for our buck with Pinyon's Airwire antenna. It has an inherent bandpass filter, more gain than a Yagi, and a higher signal-to-noise ratio than any other available antenna."
Pinyon's unique slot-antenna design is formed by etching a resonant slot in a copper-clad printed-circuit board (FR-4), then shorting it out across the middle with a very small microstrip (an electrical transmission line consisting of a conducting strip separated from the ground plane by a dielectric). An invention of Pinyon chief technology officer Forrest Brown, the resistance of the embedded microstrip converts the voltages detected on the antenna into a current to drive an RF front-end. As a result, gains of up to 13 dBi can be realized with Pinyon's Airwire antenna system in phased arrays--extending the range of residential services and handheld devices while simultaneously increasing their throughput.
"When a voltage is sensed by a normal slot antenna, it gets reflected back--you can only get about 60 percent efficiency," said Pinyon chief executive officer Debashis Bagchi. "But what we do is bring in the RF through a microstrip line--the length of which is a quarter wave--then short the line across the slot, thereby converting the voltage into a current, which give us 90 percent efficiency."