Mastering the Waves: A new antenna and radar measuring chamber

— Alexandra Rydz

A massive metal behemoth has arrived in Start-a-Factory’s main hall: Inside the imposing frame, a cutting-edge measuring chamber allows researchers to characterize and calibrate innovative antennas or communication and radar systems. The new facilities are the perfect tool for putting these systems through realistic and meaningful tests, and they are now also available for tech startups.

A recording studio: That is the first association when one sees the chamber’s walls covered from floor to ceiling in acoustic panels. But the unmistakable foam pyramid shapes are not here to catch sound, but to inhibit electromagnetic waves. A conductive coat improves insulation at high frequencies. The updated facilities represent an ideal tool for researchers and developers who need reliable measurements for new hardware or who want to optimize their systems and minimize interferences. Companies who want to develop top-quality electronic systems need the means to conduct reproducible experiments, which the new measuring chamber is perfect for.

The chamber is also equipped to test antennas working with millimeter wavelengths: Signals can be measured between the transmitter and the horn antenna acting as receiver. As the mounts can swivel 360 degrees, exact measurements can be taken from any angle. The sled with the sender antenna can also be turned and adjusted manually or automatically to fit the specific needs of the given test scenario.

Fully programmable linear axis rails were installed to allow real-time measurements of systems with moving radar targets. Almost any type of object can be mounted on the sleds, and the radar’s resolution analyzed for different angles, distances, or speeds. The setup also allows MIMO radars to be calibrated, and additional rails can be added for even more complex measuring jobs where the radars themselves are also moving on the horizontal plain. Testing for precise and reliable radar detection is relevant for developing radar systems in general, but specifically also for industrial process control systems.

The chamber is as versatile as the requirements for antennas and radars are diverse: It can handle anything from testing sensors for self-driving cars to characterizing 5G antennas or examining emittance or any interference between different materials in the radar systems. The flexible facilities mean that a range of test setups can be put in place at short notice and that almost any test scenario can be realized.

The expensive construction and maintenance used to mean that a measuring chamber for antennas, communication systems, and radars with this level of equipment was the exclusive reserve of large industrial enterprises or leading research institutions. But hardware startups working with novel communication or radar technologies increasingly need such testing facilities, which means that the chamber is a great asset for cooperation projects and can contribute massively to the development of new hardware. On top of the chamber itself, the R&D teams can benefit from the wealth of radar and antenna expertise available at Fraunhofer IZM.

Interested? The measuring chamber is available immediately for startups and developer teams working in cooperation with the professionals of our Institute.