Press Release 138/2012

The Pocket Radar

Thumbtack-sized Distance and Motion Sensor Developed by the SUCCESS Research Consortium / Radio-frequency Technology in a Chip Housing Facilitates Integration into Electronics Devices
Der neue Radar-Sensor ist nur halb so groß wie eine Eurocent-Münze, aber beinhaltet alle notwendigen Hochfrequenzkomponenten. (Bild: Robert Bosch GmbH / SUCCESS)
The novel radar sensor has only half the size of a Euro cent coin but contains all necessary radio-frequency components (Photo: Robert Bosch GmbH / SUCCESS)

Today’s parking assistant systems enable drivers to safely park their cars even in the narrowest of gaps. Such sophisticated parking aids, and also manufacturing robots which, to move about in unknown environments, require millimeter precision control, rely on precise all-around radar distance measurement. Together with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the SUCCESS Consortium now has succeeded in integrating the necessary radar technology into millimeter-sized chip housings.  

“For the first time now, we have succeeded in integrating all relevant radio-frequency components into one chip housing,” Thomas Zwick points out the advantage of this innovative technology. “Users can solder the chip onto their standard circuit boards and receive low-frequency signals that can be processed without difficulty,” Zwick, who heads KIT’s Institute for High-frequency Technology and Elec-tronics, goes on to explain.

The sensor sends and receives electromagnetic waves having a frequency of 122 GHz, which corresponds to a wavelength of ap-proximately two and a half millimeters. From the runtime of the waves, the distance to an object that is several meters away is cal-culated with an accuracy of up to less than one millimeter. In addition, the velocity of the respective object can be measured via the Doppler effect.  The sensor itself, as a matter of fact, measures only 8 x 8 millimeters but contains all the necessary radio-frequency components. The output signals thus are signals of low frequency that can be processed further by means of standard electronic sys-tems.

Zwick is sure that “this compact technology will make accessible various new applications,” and that “in the long run, series production could reduce costs per radar sensor unit to less than one Euro.” Beside vehicle environment detection and control of industrial robots, there are numerous other conceivable applications, for example extremely flat door or gate motion sensors that can be hidden behind the wallpaper or drilling machines switching off automatically once the desired drilling depth is reached.

“Regarding the complex integration of the technology, we have been able to benefit from the broad spectrum of skills of the members of SUCCESS,” Zwick smiles. The chip itself is based on the SiGe-BiCMOS technology that is suitable for highest frequencies and was developed by IHP Innovations for High Performance Microelectronics which is member of the Leibniz Association. The chip design was provided by IHP and Silicon Radar GmbH. KIT was in charge of the design of the transmitting and receiving antennae and their integration into the small package. The thin and flexible organic carrier material of the antennae was developed by Hightec MC AG, Lenzburg, Switzerland. The Finnish company SELMIC manufactured the ceramic housing and assembled the prototype. Based on studies and analyses of various possible applications, Robert Bosch GmbH developed the system design of the sensor, integrated the control electronics, and carried out the performance tests. ST Micro-electronics, Evatronix, and the University of Toronto are further members of the EU-supported consortium.  

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Being “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility, and information. For this, about 10,000 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 22,800 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.

kes, 07.09.2012

Margarete Lehné
Chief Press Officer (acting)
Phone: +49 721 608-41105
Fax: +49 721 608-43658
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Kosta Schinarakis
Press Officer
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