Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009 | A University of California, San Diego researcher last week unveiled an invention that he hopes will bring the world another step closer to a level of wireless communication that is still more prevalent in fiction than real life.
James Buckwalter, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering, has developed a new signal amplifier for the silicon chips imbedded in cell phones and other devices that will allow them to handle 10 to 100 times the bandwidth and signals on much higher frequencies.
The invention means that dramatically higher quality video on demand, video conferencing and other data-intensive wireless applications might be commercially available much sooner than previously thought. So instead of a grainy picture, the screen freezing up and delayed audio, “instantaneous remote visual interactions (teleconferencing) will be movie quality,” Buckwalter said.
“It is a big step,” said Larry Larson, chairman of the Jacobs School’s electrical and computer engineering department. “I would have to say that in the history of this field there have been four or five innovations, and this may be the sixth.”
Buckwalter presented the invention, which he named the “cascaded constructive wave amplifier,” Wednesday at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, the largest and most prestigious annual event for chipmakers like Qualcomm and Intel. “It took awhile to believe it,” Buckwalter said of his breakthrough. “There is a rush of emotion — that this is something no one has done — and it works.”
The underlying conundrum that spurred Buckwalter’s invention is that all wireless networks — from cell phone networks to the network you log your computer onto at the coffee shop — were designed to handle small bandwidth data that can be transmitted across the electromagnetic spectrum at a low, so-called radio frequency level.