Beam-Scanning Reflectarray Enabled by Fluidic Networks



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This work presents the design, theory, and measurement of a phase-reconfigurable reflectarray (RA) element for beamforming applications enabled by fluidic networks and colloidal dispersions. The element is a linearly polarized microstrip patch antenna loaded with a Coaxial Stub Microfluidic Impedance Transformer (COSMIX). Specifically, adjusting the concentration of highly dielectric particulate in the dispersion provides localized permittivity manipulation within the COSMIX. This results in variable impedance load on the patch and ultimately continuous, low-loss phase control of a signal reflected from the patch. Different aspects of design, modeling, and measurement are discussed for a proof-of-concept prototype and three further iterations.

Initial measurements with manual injections of materials into a fabricated proof-of-concept demonstrate up to 200 degrees of phase shift and a return loss of less than 1.2 dB at the operating frequency of 3 GHz. The next design iteration addresses fabrication challenges as well the general cumbersomeness of the proof-of-concept by replacing the static material delivery system with a dynamic closed-loop fluidic network. It also makes use of a design procedure to maximize the phase sensitivity. Measurements demonstrate progressive phase shifts through dilution of the system reservoir; however, the initial measurements with this system are not in line with simulated predictions. Investigations suggest the primary culprit to be inaccurate material data. The dielectric constant of the particulate (colloidal BSTO) was overrated and the loss tangent of the fluid medium (a silicone-based oil) was underrated. After accounting for these issues the measurement a second measurement with the system demonstrates 270 degrees of phase shift with return loss of 9 dB. The next design iteration examines a trade-off between phase sensitivity and reduced losses. The design also features modifications to the fluidic system to allow for layered fabrication in the GND plane as well integration with a 2-port coaxial measurement cell. Attempted measurements discover the fluidic system cannot flow the higher concentrations of nanoparticles necessary for phase shifting. A final design iteration addresses this challenge by expanding and repositioning inlets to the fluidic system. Free space reflection measurements with this element initially demonstrate phase shifting until a buildup of nanoparticles form within the COSMIX.