Spray-on antennas will revolutionize the Internet of Things

In what could be a giant leap for Internet of Things (IoT) form factors, scientists say they have invented a spray-on antenna. And the bug-spray-like application will outperform traditional metal antennas, they claim.

If it indeed does outperform traditional antennas, the clear, ink-like radiators will transform physical mediums used in constructing networks. Flexible substrates, windows, or data center walls even could be made into antennas, which would then drastically alter the data-collecting landscape.

“Installing an antenna [could be] as easy as applying some bug spray,” an article on Drexel University’s website says.

How the antenna spray works

The way the concept works is that titanium carbide compounds are dissolved in water to make the paint. The compound derives from a type of materials-science product called MXene (invented at Drexel in 2011 and pronounced “maksens”), which is basically an inorganic, super-thin material only a few atoms thick that combines conductive metal with water-dissolving characteristics. The material in the lab tests is then actually sprayed onto the object using a craft-style airbrush. When the water evaporates, the antenna remains.

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