German team wins award for inexpensive, flexible, frequency-selective THz reflectors

February 9, 2009--Scientists from the Technische Universitat Braunschweig in Germany have taken first place in the IPB Patent Awards competition for their invention: frequency-selective, flexible, inexpensive reflectors made of plastic materials. The patented innovation addresses a potential near-term mass market, Terahertz communication. It is based on a commonly used optics principle; their innovation is their selection and development of layer materials.

Feb 9th, 2009

February 9, 2009--Scientists from the Technische Universitat Braunschweig (Braunschweig, Germany) have taken first place in the IPB Patent Awards competition for their invention: frequency-selective, flexible, inexpensive reflectors made of plastic materials. Their patented innovation addresses a potential near-term mass market, terahertz (THz) communication. The scientists say their invention could enable "the WLAN of the future."

During their studies at the Technische Universität Braunschweig's Terahertz Communications Lab, the scientists say, it soon became apparent that indoor communication with THz frequencies requires a line-of-sight link between transmitter and receive--although highly reflective hot spots on the walls will suffice to re-route the THz waves when the direct link is interrupted. Unlike metallic mirrors, dielectric mirrors reflect due to interference of waves in a multi-layer structure. The advantage lies in a higher reflectivity and in the fact that they may be specifically adjusted to selected frequency bands.

This physical principle is commonly used in optics; the inventors' innovation is their selection and development of the layer materials that promise to lead to mass-market products in the medium term. To achieve this goal, they use commercial plastics as base material for their structures. Every second layer, though, is compounded with an additive, e.g. titanium dioxide (TiO2). In contrast to other solutions, this combination of base plastic and compound layer offers a high flexibility in the design of the component and permits the use of known manufacturing methods from plastics engineering to mass-produce the mirrors and equip private households and conference rooms at reasonable prices in the future.

During the ceremony of the Innovation Award of the German Economy (Frankfurt, Germany, January 24), research leader Prof. Dr. Martin Koch (who last month moved to the University of Marburg) and co-inventor Steffen Wietzke were presented with the first prize carrying the value of 25,000 Euros. Koch and Wietzke represented a team of six inventors from the Institute for High-Frequency Technology at the Technische Universität Braunschweig, which additionally consisted of the researchers Christian Jansen, Christian Jördens, Norman Krumbholz and Frank Rutz. Dr. Andreas Muth presented the award; Muth is chairman of the IPB Holding AG, one of Europe's leading consulting firms for patent evaluation, commercialization and management.

A jury of high-ranking representatives from the intellectual property community selected the patent of the scientists of the Technische Universität Braunschweig as the winner out of more than 150 patents submissions. The University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and the Fraunhofer Institute of Structural Durability and System Reliability received the 2nd and 3rd place, respectively. The awards ceremony was attended by more than 2000 guests from the world of economy, science and media, among them former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Federal Minister of Education and Research Dr. Annette Schavan.

For more information visit the Terahertz Communications Lab at Technische Universität Braunschweig online, and learn more about IPB Holding AG's patent awards at the IPB site.

Posted by Barbara G. Goode, barbarag@pennwell.com.

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