High data-rate communications: beyond 5G

Future 5G systems will seek for high area throughput efficiency in order to meet the exponentially growing requirements for data.  After 2030 and following the analysis of the NetWorld organization and the 5G PPP Vision, beyond 5G architectures and systems will address ultra-dense networks, fragmented frequency management, fundamental techniques for Tb/s communications, enabling techniques and technologies for higher carrier frequencies, realizable Massive MIMO architectures, Device-to-device (D2D) networking, wireless and optical fronthaul/backhaul. These high-speed systems, in frequency band ranging from microwaves to THz. could help to mesh extremely dense urban areas to bring high-speed internet access, or high-speed networks (typically 10Gbps). Optical wireless communications (Infra-Red (IR) and optics (visible) spectrum region) will be extremely useful to access to ultra-wide spectrum bandwidth. NTX  research program is well aligned with massive MIMO architectures requirements, by covering the design and development of novel device architectures such as custom antennas, transmitters, amplifiers, switches, filters, transceivers, linearisers throughout the radio frequency (RF) up to THz and to IR and optics domains. 

Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)

An extremely challenging example in the field of autonomous vehicles are remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS). The main challenge is the integration of the RPAS into the European Aviation Systems. Following the road-map realised by the European RPAS Steering Group, it appears that functions such as detect-and-avoid will be mandatorily included in the air traffic. NTX technologies will provide opportunities to extend the coverage of the sensing systems through integration into the “skin” of the RPAS. Benefits for the citizens cover the missions related to: civil protection (management of natural disasters), security (costal surveillance or sensitive sites monitoring) and environment protection. According to ASD (AeroSpace and Defence) international organisation, the industries in Aerospace and Defense business employ about 800,000 people with an overall turnover of almost  €200Bn. ASD foresees that RPAS might represent 10% of this. 

Impact on Semiconductor Industry

Reducing costs and time-to-market are essential factors to sustain the current capabilities in the technology roadmaps for the semiconductor industry. This must be done while simultaneously maintaining reliable nano-manufacturing processes. The process geometries and device dimensions are shrinking to the level where conventional technologies, currently used for production and quality control, are approaching physical boundaries, and a further reduction will soon appear neither technologically nor economically feasible. Besides shrinking the critical dimensions even further, 3D scaling is expected to introduce new functionalities and to optimise the available space. Moreover, introduction of 3D architectures requires a breakthrough in the manufacturing process potentially based on a hybrid 3D nano-manufacturing and packaing. Using only optical/electron subtractive technologies is insufficient to manufacture the 3D nanoarchitectures at the required scale because of limited resolution or, when the resolution is high enough,  limited scale of the processed field. 

Security Sensors

A further candidate for NTX application relates to security sensors. Sub-millimeter and millimetre-wave and THz imaging technology, as opposed to X-ray imaging, can provide solutions for safe, accurate and fast security screening of people, parcels, luggage and shipped goods. However, current systems still show severe limitations for widespread use in public areas, such assafety concerns, throughput rate, resolution, complexity and cost. Novel concepts based on Multiple-Input-Multiple-Output (MIMO) radar topologies can achieve the required the high resolution images with a considerable reduction in the number of transmitters and receivers, and thus reducing costs. NTX aims at achieving an extreme modularization of the approach in scalable systems with unprecedented flexibility towards different operational requirements enabling the use of hybrid RF and photonic technologies.  NTX can also have a strong impacton the area of biological hazard, enabling the realization of reliable, sensitive, selective and noise protected biosensors, comparing thermodynamics and kinetics of DNA and RNA hybridizations both in the bulk and when immobilized on the surface of a substrate.

Impact on Space Technology Industry

Applications of space technologies dedicated to providing civil systems and services has a  turnover of around €5Bn and counts more than 15,000 employees in Europe. Main areas of activity are satellites for spacecraft and ground segments, solutions covering secure and commercial satellite communications (SatCom) and networks, high security satellite communications equipment, bespoke geo-information and navigation services worldwide. The European Space Agency identifies SatCom as the mainstay of space industry, with market value estimated as €100Bn, including launchers, user terminals and derived services. Simultaneously, the market of micro-, nano- and pico-satellites, with emphasis on cube-sat,is drastically increasing with mainstream in science mission and earth observation. Thousands of vectors will be launched before 2020, and multibillionaire investments have been carried out especially in USA (http://www.spaceworksforecast.com).  Through this value-chain, NTX could represent a key future technology in ultra-broadband chip-sets, highly-integrated packaging for flexible, high performance and low-cost SatCom transceivers. However, paradigm-shift introduced by NTX consists in changing the technology of antennas for space, almost not evolving since many year, into SFX “skin” that use the entire satellite surface as an antenna. This can be done not only in the perspective to reduce weight and volumes in SatCom on board applications, but also for enabling communications in a swarm of pico/nano satellites. NTX, at optical frequencies, can be also an enabling breakthrough technology for innovative space scientific instruments. MTX and STX, for example, can provide new ways to build optical components simpler and easier to be manufactured and integrated and/or with improved performances compared to conventional optics. Examples are polarizers, polarization scramblers, ultra-selective filters, zero-reflection coatings.