Applied and Computational Electromagnetics
Electromagnetics deals with the study of electromagnetic fields and their engineering applications in antenna design and microwave circuits, as well as how electromagnetic waves scatter and interact with people and objects. The applications of electromagnetics research include diverse areas such as wireless communications, satellite communications, global positioning systems, healthcare, and wireless power transmission. The Cullen College’s ECE department is home to researchers who have conducted pioneering work in the field of electromagnetics, including creating the dielectric resonator antenna and performing pioneering research in the areas of microstrip antennas and computational electromagnetics. Today, the department’s EM researchers continue advancing their field through research in computational electromagnetics, antenna design, bioelectromagnetics, wireless power transmission, electromagnetic interference and compatibility, high-frequency effects in microwave circuits, and plasmon-enhanced optics.
Computational Electromagnetics uses computer simulations to understand how electromagnetic fields and waves behave and interact with each other and with objects.
- Department researchers have developed a powerful computational electromagnetics tool dubbed EIGER (Electromagnetic Interactions GEneRalized) in partnership with a variety of agencies, including the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, NASA, the Navy's SPAWAR Lab and the consulting firm Advanced Numerical Tools and Services. EIGER can electromagnetically model large and complex structures, such as an entire ship or aircraft, and is constantly being updated to model even more complex structures.
- Extensive research is conducted in the area of time-domain EM modeling, which allows researchers to quickly model an object’s electromagnetic properties with relatively little computing power and data storage.
The ECE department is home to leading antenna researchers, who work to develop novel antennas with improved performance, as well as antennas that meet specialized needs, such as highly secure communications and the ability to send and receive signals through small openings. Their research covers:
- Microstrip antennas, or printed antennas, which are used at microwave frequencies and valued for their simplicity, small size and low cost.
- Dielectric resonator antennas, which were first proposed by researchers in the Cullen College’s electrical and computer engineering department and are today widely used for mobile communication devices and in military applications.
- Leaky-wave antennas that emit radiation continuously along their entire length, producing narrow beams that can be used for various applications, including those that require frequency scanning of a directive beam.
- Two-dimensional leaky wave antennas, which transmit a very narrow “pencil” beam of electromagnetic radiation and are well suited for communications that require high directivity from a simple structure.
Through medical care, electric vehicles and wireless communications, humans encounter an increasing number of sources of electromagnetic fields. ECE department researchers are conducting studies in the field of bioelectromagnetics to better understand these interactions. Their efforts include:
- MRI compatibility studies to help makers of implantable medical devices such as pacemakers learn how to build devices in such a way that they can be exposed to electromagnetic waves from an MRI scan without heating up dangerously.
- Explorations into the impact of electric vehicles, particularly their energy storage, charging and discharge, on individuals with implantable medical devices.
- Research into electromagnetic coils used for medical applications, such as the therapeutic use of magnetic fields to influence neural activity in portions of the brain associated with neurological disorders.
ECE researchers are conducting work in other areas of electromagnetics, including:
- Wireless power transmission, which can be used provide electricity to sensors and other equipment and components to locations that that cannot be powered using traditional methods, such as inside oil wells.
- Plasmon-enhanced optics, which allows researchers to create very directive radiation beams at optical frequencies, or to send optical signals through very narrow openings, and can be used in various microscopy and specialized sensor or communication applications.
- High frequency effects in microwave circuits, which studies how signals can become distorted, lose energy due to radiation, or suffer from spurious effects such as interference and dropout at high frequency.