Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

Shape-Shifting Antennas

When I saw this story on shape-shifting antennas that use liquid metal injected into elastomeric microchannels, I had to laugh just a little. Robert Heinlein wrote about something very similar to this. But first, look at the device created by North Carolina State University researchers.


(Shape-shifting antenna)

Modern antennas are made from copper or other metals, but there are limitations to how far they can be bent – and how often – before they break completely. NC State scientists have created antennas using an alloy that “can be bent, stretched, cut and twisted – and will return to its original shape,” says Dr. Michael Dickey, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State and co-author of the research.

The antenna consists of liquid metal injected into elastomeric microchannels. The antennas can be deformed (twisted and bent) since the mechanical properties are dictated by the elastomer and not the metal.

The researchers make the new antennas by injecting an alloy made up of the metals gallium and indium, which remains in liquid form at room temperature, into very small channels the width of a human hair. The channels are hollow, like a straw, with openings at either end – but can be any shape. Once the alloy has filled the channel, the surface of the alloy oxidizes, creating a “skin” that holds the alloy in place while allowing it to retain its liquid properties.

“Because the alloy remains a liquid,” Dickey says, “it takes on the mechanical properties of the material encasing it.” For example, the researchers injected the alloy into elastic silicone channels, creating wirelike antennas that are incredibly resilient and that can be manipulated into a variety of shapes. “This flexibility is particularly attractive for antennas because the frequency of an antenna is determined by its shape,” says Dickey. “So you can tune these antennas by stretching them [my italics].”

In his excellent 1942 novella Waldo, Heinlein draws on the idea of broadcast power. The aircars (including the amazing broomstick speedster) use standard, rigid antennas to draw power.

As the story progresses, the deKalb antennas mysteriously fail to function. When one of them is fixed by a "hex doctor", engineers go to investigate.

"What!" put in Stevens. "You don't mean to stand there and tell me an old witch doctor fixed your deKalbs."

"Not witch doctor - hex doctor..."

The skycar looked quite ordinary. Stevens examined the deKalbs and saw some faint chalk marks on their metal sides... "Watch while I cut in reception."

Stevens waited, heard the faint hum as the circuits became activized and looked.

The antennae of the deKalbs, each a rigid pencil or metal, were bending, flexing, writhing like a cluster of worms. They were reaching out, like fingers...
(Read more about Heinlein's broadcast power receptors)

If you haven't read Waldo, treat yourself. Heinlein is a master storyteller; even this early in his career, he created a tour de force story that combined space travel with the classic American supernatural folk tale.

From NC State press release via Next Big Future.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/2/2009)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Material ")

Tiny Mining - Extract Precious Industrial Minerals From Your Own Body
'Jim, I saw them reduce four of my doctors and nurses into those little cubes!' - Gene Roddenberry, 1968.

Polyaramide Is Stronger Than Steel, Light As Plastic
'... harnessed by aludur straps' - Leo Zagat, 1943.

Trinitite, Pentagrams And Isaac Asimov
'...And there were horns.' - Isaac Asimov, 1956.

RUSSE Self-Healing Plastic Works Underwater
'It even had an inter-skin layer of gum that could seal the punctures...' - Raymond Z. Gallun, 1951.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

New Train Station Offers Minority Report-Style Signs
A whole new world awaits you, John Anderton!

The Autonomous Robotic Urethral Catheter - Would You Use It?
'It'll snake its way in on its own.'

The Far Side Of The Moon, By NASA (2015) And By PAUL (1932)
"We had leisure to make a thorough observation of the hidden side of earth's satellite."

LoadRunner Robot Works Alone, Or In A Group
'They marched in unison, seven of them...'

Sierra Space Inflatable LIFE Habitat Burst Pressure Test
'It was like being inside a balloon...'

Longest Immersed Tunnel Will Connect Denmark and Germany
'... iron tubes... the ends of the tubes were joined to each other...to preserve it from the action of the seawater.'

Alcohol-Sensing Cars - NTSB Catches Up With Philip K. Dick (1963)
'Mr. Garden, you are in no condition to drive....'

Solar-Powered Remote-Control Cockroaches!
'A cable, here, from the controller to the interface plug... wires from that to the brain.'

SolarBotanic Tree For Solar Energy - Would You Need A Forest, Or Just One?
'The slender stalks of a sunshade-photocell collector...'

Metaverse Hardware - Run And Flail Like A Maniac, Or Lie Quietly?
'Holodeck 4 was waiting to be programmed...'

Robot Food Delivery Coming To Campus Near You
'... he rewired the delivery robot so that it would serve him midnight snacks.'

Are Craiyon Images Puddinged, ala Philip K. Dick?
'I stood in line for half an hour for this, and it's just a blob!'

Hip'Safe Airbag For Seniors, From Helite
'Other airbags go off around her torso and pelvis...'

Soulaje Self-Administered Euthanasia Wearable Prototype
'A young man... advanced with nervous strides along the gravel path which leads to the bronze doors of the Lethal Chamber.'

Midjourney AI Creates 'Théâtre D'opéra Spatial', Wins Art Fair First Prize
'... we'll give him in his brain what he needs for creation.'

Mobot Robot Tests Smartphone Apps With Its Finger
'Rapidly, purposefully, the metallic fingers moved over the key-boards...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.