University of Waterloo to explore fringes of electromagnetic spectrum with new wireless facility

The University of Waterloo opened a new wireless technologies facility today, one that will be used to test electromagnetic devices.

The Centre for Intelligent Antenna and Radio Systems (CIARS) cost about $15 million to build and was in the works for about five years. Spanning about 5,000 square feet, it’s slated as a centre for academic and industry researchers working on new technologies for smartphones, cars, healthcare, satellite communications, and futuristic nano-sensors. The centre has four interconnected labs, one outdoor lab, and an advanced computational facility.

CIARS' anechoic chamber.
CIARS’ anechoic chamber.

What the centre does is measure objects’ electromagnetic fields. The fields can be anywhere from as small as a human hair to as big as a two-ton truck, and it’s supposed to be the most precise over the widest range of frequency, compared to any other academic facility in the world.

Researchers are also excited about the centre’s ability to measure terahertz. It features multi-configuration electromagnetic radiation lab, where it keeps an anechoic chamber and a place for terahertz measurement. Since researchers don’t fully understand terahertz, a part of the electromagnetic spectrum between radar and fibre optics, they’re hoping that measuring it will uncover new information about it. That might lead to new technologies that could disrupt bio-technology, genetics, pharmaceutics, and targeted drug delivery.

“Sitting between radio frequency and light-wave, terahertz is the most exciting and least explored portion of electromagnetic spectrum, open to unlimited possibilities,” said CIARS director Safieddin Safavi-Naeini, in a statement. He also works at Waterloo’s department of electrical and computer engineering.

“We have only just started to understand and to explore terahertz in the last decade. Even though we’re just launching our new facility, word has spread and we already have considerable interest from global academic and industry circles.”

While the University of Waterloo is housing the centre, researchers can use it remotely. Funding came from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Research Fund, and industry partners.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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