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What if our light bulbs became antennas?

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To answer this question, Adrien Laffont, doctoral student at the Department of Electronics, Optronics and Signal Processing (DEOS), has been working on experimental research equipment developed specially for the study of interactions between microwave signals and a plasma discharge. These interactions could be used to design a new miniature VHS antenna concept with reconfigurable frequencies.

ISAE-SUPAERO has been working with LAPLACE (Laboratoire Plasma et Conversion d’Energie) since 2014 to develop a new miniature VHF antenna concept with reconfigurable frequencies using a low-pressure plasma discharge. In order to validate this new concept, a test bench was specially designed for Vincent Laquerbe’s thesis, financed by the Agence d’Innovation de la Défense de la Délégation Générale de l’Armement (DGA/AID – Defense Innovation Agency at the General Delegation for Armaments) and ISAE-SUPAERO. His thesis, defended in December 2017, validated the physical principle behind the radiation produced by this antenna – plasmon resonance excitation with a hemispherical plasma discharge at VHF frequencies.

Article banc plasma_2020
Antenna without discharge

Plasmonics is a discipline that studies the behavior of metals in the optics field. The originality of the approach used by the researchers at ISAE-SUPAERO and LAPLACE consists in considering plasmas instead of metals. Indeed, as the electronic density of a plasma is lower by several orders of magnitude, plasmon excitation at microwave frequencies is possible. We can thus find new perspectives for the development of antennas and microwave circuits by exploiting “gaseous microwave plasmonics”.

For optimization of the antenna in question, the experimental bench has evolved to provide precise plasma characterization and, in the end, for the antenna.

Since 2018, this work has been carried out as part of Adrien Laffont’s thesis with the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA-Gramat) as an additional partner, with financing from DGA/AID and the Occitanie Region. This new test bench provides access to the electronic density in the plasma and the characterization of its inhomogeneity. With these results it will be possible to optimize the final antenna’s operation.

Collaborative research

This research is supervised by Olivier Pascal (LAPLACE) and Romain Pascaud (ISAE-SUPAERO), DEOS research professor and member of the “Photonique Antenne Microondes PlasmA” (PAMPA) research group. This group studies electromagnetism applied to the fields of microwaves and photonics.

Article banc plasma_2020_bis
Adrien Laffont

Its research studies the limits and interfaces of the spectrum covered by microwaves and the optics, as well as the interactions between electromagnetic waves and matter to design new microwave and photonic systems and functions. The applications are designed for the aeronautical, space and defense sectors.

ISAE-SUPAERO and LAPLACE joined forces with CEA-Gramat (Lot department) for Adrien Laffont’s thesis work. This center of expertise in microwave radiation has advanced test infrastructures that will provide precise characterization of the antenna’s radiation properties. The test bench will be hosted at CEA-Gramat for measurement campaigns to be carried out at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021.

In addition 👉 The award for the best paper given to researchers at ISAE-SUPAERO during the Journées Nationales Microondes 2019 (JNM – National Microwave Days)

Discover Adrien Laffont’s work


Adrien Laffont is part of the OLIMPES – Optronics, Lasers, Physical Imaging and Spatial Environment doctoral host team. The OLIMPES team is a mixed ISAE-SUPAERO/ONERA team. It includes 55 permanents researchers and research professors, as well as some twenty doctoral students and post-grads.

Its research activities cover a wide range from the optical to the millimetric, not to mention Terahertz.
These activities come under 7 lines of research that give rise to many domestic cooperation projects with academic centers (UT3, Paris VII and Paris XI), research centers (LAAS, Femto St, CEA, CNES and DGA) and the industrial world (THALES, EADS ASTRIUM, MBDA, AIRBUS, STMicroelectronics, SAFRAN, DlightSys and Alphanov). OLIMPES also works in cooperation with organizations internationally (EPFL, TUM Münich, DLR and NICT Japan).



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