Researchers around the world are already laying the groundwork for the next generation of wireless communications, 6G, even if customers won’t see it for years. Future devices will be able to achieve the enhanced speeds required for such a technological leap thanks to components developed by a multinational team lead by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.
The researchers presented new radio frequency switches in a new report published in Nature Electronics that are responsible for keeping devices linked by jumping between networks and frequencies while receiving data. Unlike the switches found in most electronics today, these new gadgets are comprised of two-dimensional materials that require substantially less energy to operate, resulting in increased device speed and battery life.
“These switches can provide those low-energy, high-speed functions for anything that is battery-operated and needs to access the cloud or the 5G and eventually 6G network,” said DejiAkinwande, professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the project’s principal leader.
Because of the increasing demand for speed and power, 6G devices will almost certainly contain hundreds of switches, far more than existing electronics. 6G devices will need to access higher frequency spectrum bands than today’s electronics to achieve faster speeds, and these switches will be critical in doing so.
Another crucial part of cracking the code for 6G is making these switches and other components more efficient. This efficiency extends beyond the life of the battery. Because 6G’s applications are so diverse, including driverless cars and smart cities, every device will need to be essentially latency-free.
Switches for 5G devices were earlier developed by Akinwande. The materials utilized this time are one of the most significant differences. MOS2, or molybdenum disulfide, is sandwiched between two electrodes in these novel switches.
Memristors are a type of device that is commonly utilised for memory. However, the ability to use these as switches opens the door for present and future gadgets to achieve unprecedented levels of speed and battery life.
Akinwande is part of a team of UT Austin researchers working on 6G. Last year, 6G@UT was launched, bringing together industry leaders such as Samsung, AT&T, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, and others to collaborate with researchers on 6G development.
The next generation of wireless will incorporate technologies that have matured over the last ten years, such as ubiquitous sensing, augmented reality, machine learning, and the capacity to utilise higher frequency spectrum in the mmWave and THz bands. These technologies will be at the forefront of the 6G@UT center’s research.
The 5G rollout began in 2020, and each wireless generation lasts around a decade. According to Akinwande, 6G deployment is unlikely until approximately 2030. But now is the moment to put all of the necessary pieces in place.
“A lot of the components, a lot of the architecture,” Akinwande added, “need to be resolved years in advance so that system-level integration and execution can happen in time for the launch.”
The integration of the switches with silicon chips and circuitry is the next step in this research. The researchers want to improve the switches’ ability to bounce between frequencies so that gadgets can make stronger connections on the go. They’re working with industry partners to produce switches that will be commercially available.