S&T researcher studies next generation phones, cars

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On February 22, 2017

Missouri S&T professor Jun Fan works in the semi-anechoic chamber in the Electromagnetic Compatibility lab at Hy-Point. Fan is studying ways to make smartphones faster and more reliable. Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T

In 10 years, your cellphone won’t look anything like it does today — at least on the inside. The phones, with 5G technology, will be 10 times faster than they are today. And self-driving cars won’t be a novelty, they will be part of your daily commute.

A Missouri University of Science and Technology researcher is working to make those goals a reality — a safe reality — by deciphering and solving the problems of electromagnetic interference inherent in the systems. Dr. Jun Fan, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri S&T, is using a Google grant to provide real-world solutions.

Every electronic device emits electromagnetic radiation, and cellphones are no different with their multiple channels and multiple digital and analog circuits. “Noise,” or electromagnetic interference, affects the performance of multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) systems by slowing the speed of apps and downloads, dropping calls and making calls you do receive sometimes hard to hear clearly.

Those issues can be frustrating, but they’re not life-threatening — but keeping self-driving cars safe is.

“We need to make these devices, phones and cars, work in a real-world setting,” Fan says.

Fan’s work in the Missouri S&T Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) lab tests current cellphones to understand the interference and its effect on the performance of over-the-air MIMO systems. The lab is a fully enclosed electromagnetic quiet room equipped with wave-absorbing material on three walls and the ceiling, with big pads and smaller egg crate shapes. Here the researchers gauge the radiation from electronic devices’ transmitters and receivers.

New technology moves quickly, and it’s necessary to understand today’s phones to get to that fifth-generation 5G future. Current international standards for 4G phones set peak speed requirements of 100 megabits per second for high mobility communication (auto users) and 1 gigabit per second for low mobility communication (pedestrians and stationary users).

The information gleaned by studying cellphones can be applicable to autonomous automobiles, Fan says. Just as reducing interference in phones can lead to better performance, reducing interference in and among self-driving cars will make them safer when multiple vehicles are on the road. Of course, infrastructure investment in and surrounding roads will be necessary to keep the communications between autos clear and direct.

“Google wants to see if results to de-bug fail, what went wrong,” Fan says. “If it was interference, what kind of interference is it?”


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