Optisys partners with NRAO to explore potential of AM antennas for radio astronomy

February 17, 2022

A CAD drawing illustrating the external view of a potential additively manufactured orthomode transducer (OMT) with a flange connector. Optisys and NRAO are working together to additively manufacture OMTs and other electromagnetic devices for radio astronomy (Courtesy Optisys/NRAO)

Radio Frequency (RF) design and metal Additive Manufacturing company Optisys, LLC, headquartered in Salt Lake, Utah, USA, has partnered with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) based in Charlottesville, Virginia, to explore how the potential of additively manufactured orthomode transducers (OMTs) and other electromagnetic devices for radio astronomy applications.

In radio astronomy, the performance of antennas, waveguides, and other electromagnetic parts help determine the capability and sensitivity of radio telescopes and the quality of scientific data they deliver to researchers. The more capable and sensitive the antenna and other devices, the more scientists can learn about the universe. NRAO’s Central Development Laboratory (CDL) is continuously testing new technologies in pursuit of building better telescopes.

Optisys explains that its design capability allows for the smallest SWaP RF products, which further decreases the losses, and increases the stability, of the antennas used in such apparatus. These are favourable attributes in radio astronomy, especially when the antenna is required to be operated at cryogenic temperatures. The nature of Optisys technology, being so highly integrated, and not requiring plating to provide excellent performance, means it is an excellent candidate to be the basis of the next generation of increased-range and higher-accuracy, land and space-based radio telescopes.

“Understanding the universe requires us to push the limits of science, technology, and knowledge,” stated Tony Beasley, Director of NRAO. “CDL has been at the forefront of this effort in radio astronomy for decades, and with the help of Optisys, will continue to lead the industry in innovative solutions.”

Optisys and NRAO are both said to be excited about the potential of where Optisys’ design capability will assist in shedding light on our universe’s birth and inner workings. Traditionally designed and manufactured RF solutions are reported to have a restriction in their capability that limits the scope of information that can be detected by a single telescope. Optisys’ advanced antenna capability is expected to expand that scope, leading to a richer and more defined dataset.

The company is expected to commence production soon on the first test device, an orthomode transducer (OMT), with delivery expected by the end of 2022. OMTs separate the two polarisations found in many radio astronomy signals and help astronomers analyse collected data. The new additively manufactured OMT will be compared against those produced through traditional machining techniques and used as a baseline for designing and improving future devices.

Bert Hawkins, Director of NRAO’s Central Development Laboratory (CDL), commented, “Science requirements are always pushing the limits of technology, so we need to invest in innovative technologies with the potential to break through current performance barriers.”

“3D-printed electromagnetic devices can have all sorts of shapes, structures, and designs that would be impossible to make with traditional machining techniques,” Hawkins continued. “NRAO’s new partnership with Optisys has the potential to lead to the development of devices with the ability to outperform those currently used in radio astronomy.”

Janos Opra, Optisys CEO, added, “All areas of RF applications are benefiting from Optisys’ advanced capability. Whether it be communication, radar, directed energy or radio astronomy, we are incredibly excited about our involvement in all RF industries. Our partnership with the NRAO is not only good for Optisys, the NRAO or the RF industry, but will provide insight and knowledge for the sustained benefit of all humankind.”

A whitepaper on the conducted tests is expected to be published later this year.

www.optisys.com

www.public.nrao.edu

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