Fused silica in silicon-based technology is set to enable next-generation 5G gadgets.
Smartphones and tablets are a product of 4G, otherwise known as wireless digital, networks. This has enabled users to download files containing full-length films in less than 10 minutes, even though the file size would average about one gigabyte.
The electronics industry is now looking at the potential for the next generation of networks that will have to cope with surging demand in mobile phone traffic as well as every variety of instant access to any multimedia files.
5G technology is now expected to furnish internet connections that will be at least 40 times faster than the current rate with 4G, as well as provide nearly four times as much worldwide coverage.
The secret lies in the use of Fused silica components in millimetre wave frequency integrated circuits. Faster and higher-quality multimedia content can be provided within more bandwidth, the companies believe. This is aimed at addressing the expectations of users for greater reliability, constant connectivity and low latency – the time it takes to upload or download – just about anywhere in the world.
Millimetre wave refers to a higher-frequency band than 4G uses in the electromagnetic spectrum. Millimetre wave operates at between 30 GHz and 300 GHz. This has the potential of opening up huge amounts of bandwidth and will alleviate ongoing concerns related to growing congestion in wireless traffic.
This part of the spectrum is already in use by some satellite, radar and military communications systems, but nevertheless it is far less occupied than the currently used spectrum. This is mostly around the 750 MHz frequency but occasionally can go up to about 2GHz. The millimetre wave band that the 5G devices will use is also known as the Extremely High Frequency (EHF) spectrum range.
Silica technologies have produced fused silica components for the 5G range that incorporate whole circuits into a single chip. These have proved to be superior to the standard gallium arsenide (GaAs) components because they can be made much smaller. The GaAs chip would have to be of too large a size for the expected overall size of the final electronic device.
Nevertheless, GaAs components still have a superior electrical performance compared with their fused silica counterparts. Electronics engineers are hoping that research will develop improved fused silica technologies in the future.
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