Centre for High Frequency Engineering
Research in communications, sensors and materials for security, energy and health.
Researchers in the Centre for High Frequency Engineering are carrying out cutting edge, industrially relevant research in the areas of communications, sensors and materials.
The Centre’s research covers the specific areas of the fundamental science and applications of electronic materials, wireless communications systems, sensor technologies, embedded systems, signal conversion/processing and microfluidics. This research has a significant impact in areas as diverse as security, advanced materials, energy and health.
The Centre aims to conduct world-leading, interdisciplinary research using high-end electronics technology to solve tomorrow’s engineering challenges.
High frequency engineering
Pioneering the development and application of a new generation of non-linear, high-power, high-frequency measurement systems, the Group are continuing to break new ground in enabling ‘Waveform Engineering’; an alternative approach to traditional non-linear characterisation and modelling.
By capturing the actual voltage and current waveform data of an active device, it is possible to better understand non-linear behaviour, and to accurately model this within the CAD environment. Success in this area has led to the formation of Mesuro Ltd - a spin-out company that is now the world’s leading developer of open loop, active harmonic load pull solutions, delivering ground-breaking performance improvements in the design and manufacture of RF and microwave devices and amplifiers.
Other focus areas include high frequency device characterisation with on-wafer facilities covering a frequency range up to 50 GHz, and novel power amplifier design techniques allowing rapid implementations of very high-efficiency, high-linearity and wide bandwidth architectures (Class B, J, F as well as their inverse and continuous modes).
Energy efficiency is a major driver for our research into future high-frequency electronic systems. Linked to this, new research involves the use of high-power solid state microwave components for the development of the next generation of highly efficient sources of heat within industrial, medical and scientific applications.
Signal conversion and processing
Current research involves the signal processing, precision characterisation and dynamic range enhancement of data converter based sensor systems. This has applications with sensor signal bandwidths ranging from sub Hz to over 50 GHz.
Examples of this research in action include sigma delta converter characterisation for the CERN LHC project, dynamic range enhancement of MEMS acoustic sensors, ultrasonic imaging systems, software radios, RADAR sensors and arbitrary waveform generators. The MEMS sensor enhancement research recently won an innovation award in association with QinetiQ.
Crucial to the continued enhancements of high frequency device performance are the limiting characteristics imposed by the electronic materials used. Materials research involves fundamental studies and materials processing of a range of electronic materials, from superconductors, to III-V semiconductors (including GaN and InN), to transparent conducting oxides (e.g. indium tin oxide, and related materials).
These activities link the state-of-the-art clean room and processing facilities at Cardiff University, to the high frequency characterisation facilities and the realisation of efficient devices by waveform engineering.
This highly interdisciplinary area involves the use of microfluidics technology for sustainable production processes and provides opportunities for working at the interface of engineering with chemistry, biosciences, medicine and pharmacy.
The central experimental feature is the Xtreme Laser Facility (XLF), which is unique in Europe and has capability in both 157nm, 193nm ultraviolet and 795nm femtosecond laser micro- and nano-machining. It is designed for Lab-on-a-Chip microfluidic, microreactor, photonic and separations product developments.
The XLF represents a more than £2 million capital investment and is a focus for further investments by affiliated companies. Other experimental features include the ThermoFisher Scientific Surveyor MSQ Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometer (with Xcalibur Control and Data Acquisition), plus a wide range of Nikon microscopes, including infra-red, multiwavelength confocal and high resolution SEM and TEM.
Two key patents in microfluidics technology have been taken to market through the foundation of Q-CHIP, valued at over £4 million and funded by EPSRC/DTI and business angels. A new focus for microfluidics research at Cardiff is the mass production of nuclear fusion targets for future energy generation.
Funding the research
The Centre benefits from major research support from both government and industry. Recent research grants include:
- EPSRC award of £1,158,000 for Holistic Design of Power Amplifiers for Future Wireless Systems
- Industrial sponsorship of over £540,000 by Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems for projects on Novel Development Methodology for Highly Efficient and Ultra Broadband Remote Sensing Applications and Multi-mode Sampling ADC System and Wideband DAC using direct Interpolation
Award winning academics
Members of the Centre chair numerous committees, international conferences and councils. They have received recognition in the form of the Arne Magnus Lecture Award, the European Association Award for Signal Processing Technical Achievement and even the Papal Cross for Distinguished Service to Higher Education.