Experimental antenna-clothing outperforms regular antennas


August 24, 2011

Researchers have developed an antenna system that can be built into clothing, and that has been shown to outperform conventional wearable whip antennas

Researchers have developed an antenna system that can be built into clothing, and that has been shown to outperform conventional wearable whip antennas

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In the recent past, we've seen outfits that incorporate bio-sensors and batteries, and even a bikini with integrated solar cells. One of the latest innovations in smart fabrics, however, allows a person's clothing to act as multiple antennas. Developed at Ohio State University (OSU), the system could prove particularly useful to soldiers, who don't want to be encumbered by a protruding whip antenna.

While this is not the first time that clothing has been used to send and receive radio signals, the OSU technology is unique in that it uses a computer control device to facilitate several antennas within one piece of fabric.

The engineers have created a prototype, made by etching thin layers of brass onto commercially-available FR-4 flexible plastic film, then sewing that film onto conventional fabric. Four patches of the plastic were attached to a vest on the chest, back and both shoulders. These were wired to the controller, an inch-thick metal box slightly smaller than a credit card, which was worn on a belt.

Because the body's position may result in one or more of the antennas being blocked by obstacles, or short-circuited against the wearer's skin, the controller is able to switch between antennas so that the one best able to transmit and receive is activated. In lab tests, the vest was found to be able to work in all directions, offering four times the range of a standard military whip antenna.

The OSU team is now looking into printing such antennas directly onto clothing, or embroidering them into it using metallic thread. They have partnered with tech company Applied EM, to commercialize the technology. It is estimated that the systems might initially cost about US$200 each, but prices should drop as production increases.

Along with the military applications, it has also been suggested that the antennas could be used in clothing for the elderly or disabled, which would allow them to communicate in emergencies without having to wear conspicuous assistive devices.

The research was recently published in the journal IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

uh isn;t cell phone radiation strong enough to cause tissue damage.:? i thought \'they\' were saying, keep it away from your nads, brain, etc

now they want to put the transmitting antenna right on my body




The embroidered model might serve best. Metallic thread could be used throughout a vest/shirt/jacket for omni-directional effect.

Fred Conwell

Great idea until you try to you wear your shirt full of wires and metallic patches which is plugged directly into an electronic device through airport security.

Lance Alladin

They seem to have forgotten that soldiers will wear body armour, weapons, ammunition, grenades, knifes, water bladders(camelbaks), and other RF blocking and/or distorting equipment. I doubt this will work under real world conditions.

Seth Perkins

Cellphone radiation is not the type of radiation that causes mutations and it isn\'t even as much 1w. Reports that talk about cellphones causing cancer are bogus. Radio radiation is the same.

put the antenna on the helmet. That can take care of any blocking. There are plenty of ways to take care of all that.

JC Howell
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