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POSTECH LabCumentary Ho-Jin Song (Electrical Engineering)

Microwave Antenna, Device and System (MADs) Lab

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Microwave Antenna, Device and System (MADs) Lab

Ho-Jin Song (Electrical Engineering)

This June, Samsung Electronics successfully demonstrated its 6G Terahertz (THz) wireless communication prototype. Then in August, another success enlivened 6G technology, as LG Electronics beamed 6G THz communication signals over a distance of more than 100 meters. 6G communications technology represents the goalpost of the industry’s cutting-edge aspirations, as it can potentially increase data transmission rates by up to 50 times from those of 5G.
 
Implementing 6G technology in our everyday lives, however, demands communication systems and components that are able to accommodate operating frequency levels as high as 100 GHz. The Microwave Antenna, Device and System (MADs) Lab led by Professor Ho-Jin Song at the Department of Electrical Engineering, POSTECH, is developing integrated circuits to enable 6G wireless communications. “The adoption of 6G mobile communications can be compared to increasing the speed of a freight train from 2 to 200km/h while maintaining the same freight capacity”, Professor Song comments, and further goes on to say “Components operating at such high speeds are inevitably exposed to tremendous stress, and this requires technological solutions”.
 
The evolution of wireless communications technology generally follows a 10-year generational cycle. In keeping with this pattern, industry analysts forecast the 6G era to open around 2030, as the 5G era began in 2020. While 5G technology operates within the 3GHz frequency rage, it increases to as high as 100GHz with the introduction of 6G technology. This technological leap requires the deployment of new integrated circuits to overcome the physical limitations and process 6G millimeter waves.
 
The MADs Lab succeeded in wirelessly transmitting data at the speed of 50Gbps (gigabit per second) in the above 200GHz range to demonstrate the potential of THz communications. This is nearly 50 times faster than what 5G technology currently supports. Researchers at the Lab will continue to explore ways to further increase data rates to 1000Gbps levels by leveraging the multi-input and multi-output (MIMO) technology used in 4G LTE and 5G to transfer large amounts of data.
 
The MADs Lab has already developed integrated circuits for data transmission and reception in the 70~80GHz range based on CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) technology to reach 50Gbps levels in wireless data rates. The Lab aims to build upon this achievement to move onto 140GHz and 300GHz frequency bands that are potential candidates for 6G. Ultimately, the goal would be to develop 1000Gbps ultra high speed wireless communications systems. Professor Song proudly notes, “The MADs Lab is the only one of its kind in the nation equipped with both measurement devices and the software necessary for THz wireless communications”.
 
The Lab is also working on millimeter wave integrated circuits that will enable ‘quantum computing’ that many scientists could before only imagine. “While 6G and quantum computing may seem completely unrelated, their common denominator is in their use of millimeter wave integrated circuits”, Professor Song comments and elaborates upon their cryogenic amplifier for quantum computing by saying, “This amplifier is operational at absolute zero (or −273 °C), which we developed as a first for Korea, and we have recently confirmed signal amplifications”. The research team is currently preparing to publish a paper illustrating these findings.
 
According to Professor Song, “THz represents the untapped radio wave resources that have yet to be explored, and quantum computing is the technology which has long been merely a figment of our imagination”. Song goes on to articulate the intentions of their research, which is “to harness the semiconductor integrated circuit technology and blaze the trail of the industry to ultimately present a whole new technology paradigm to the world”.

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