We present our recent results in rapid prototyping radiofrequency (RF) antennas using liquid conductors that are embedded within 3D printed dielectric substrates. In one novel realization, a room temperature vacuum-filling process infuses cavities inside the printed dielectric structure with a gallium-based liquid metal to form antennas. Using this method, we form conductive planes, coaxial cylinders, and curved channels that compose a variety of antenna types. Simulations and measurements of connectorized samples demonstrate accurate design and fabrication of several antenna designs operating at 6 GHz including a helix, planar rectangular patch, and four element patch array. This approach allows integration into a single package of the antenna with its corporate feed network, impedance matching, power distribution, and 3D transitions. The presentation will discuss the printing and vacuum-filling process, RF design considerations, measurement results, and an analysis of dielectric and conductor loss contributions. Furthermore, we will discuss other approaches and benefits of these types of microfluidic antenna structures, including methods to enable reconfigurable devices using actuated liquid metals.
- Describe a vacuum-filling process for embedding conductive fluids within printed dielectric substrates.
- Compare the benefits of this approach for prototyping radiofrequency (RF) devices to conventional approaches, including the types of geometries that can be realized and their relative RF performance.
- Assess the limitations when using the presented approach to form radiofrequency devices, including fabrication constraints and RF loss considerations.