The University of Virginia is a co-founder of the National Science Foundation’s Center for Spectrum Ecosystem Innovation.

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The UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and Virginia Diodes constitute a major research hub in technology for millimeter and submillimeter spectrum access and use with significant infrastructure for testbeds, trusted relationships with industry and government, and depth of perspective into the needs of the scientific research community.

Leverages UVA’s long-standing expertise in radio astronomy and Terahertz technology SpectrumX Partnership

The University of Virginia’s Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is expanding its research hub for wireless spectrum sharing as part of a new National Center for Spectrum Innovation. The center, led by University of Notre Dame professor of electrical engineering Nick Laneman, has been awarded $25 million in funding from the National Science Foundation.

“We are proud to have joined with Notre Dame to form SpectrumX and look forward to solving policy and technology challenges created by the worldwide growth of wireless systems and applications, together, we will chart a path toward a vibrant future wireless environment that will serve both commercial applications and scientific research.”

Robert M. Weikle II, a professor of electrical and computer engineering who is leading the UVA team

From personal communications and navigation to radar and sensing, wireless technologies enable various applications, including 5G and beyond. Congestion and growing pressure on government regulators to distribute new commercial spectra at higher frequencies above 100 gigahertz has come from a severe need for greater access to the radio spectrum.

A solution is needed to protect scientific needs requiring the radio-through-terahertz spectrum while enabling coexistence with other users as emerging commercial applications enter that space. This vast and untapped frequency region represents an unprecedented opportunity for commercial applications, says UVA Director of Engineering Bill Weikle. The UVA team contributes its long-established expertise in design, metrology, sensors, devices, and system hardware solutions.

Weikle’s team works with the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and Virginia Diodes and has been doing so for decades. With the considerable infrastructure for testbeds, trustworthy ties with industry and government, and a depth of insight into the demands of the scientific research community, these institutions form a key research hub in technologies for millimeter and submillimeter spectrum access and usage.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a crucial scientific institution operating in the radio spectrum. Its staff members conduct astronomical observations at radio wavelengths and run the world’s most powerful and productive radio telescope facilities for use by the international scientific community. “Research of fundamental importance to our world, including the origins of the universe and climate change, rests on scientists’ continued access to clean spectrum,” an astronomer says.

Virginia Diodes is a leading producer of millimeter-wave and terahertz test and measurement equipment. Gerhard Schoenthal, chief operating officer, says SpectrumX will enable the coexistence of commercial and scientific interests. Virginia diode is a critical commercial source for technology and test equipment from Ka-band to beyond one terahertz.

Balancing the UVA team’s knowledge and understanding of phenomena and instrumentation for bands above 100 gigahertz, Nikos Sidiropoulos, Louis T. Rader, Professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Cong Shen, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, will research signal processing-based spectrum sharing in lower radio-frequency bands.

Randall Berry, Northwestern University’s John A. Dever Professor of electrical and computer engineering and department chair, and Dongning Guo, professor of electrical and computer engineering with Northwestern’s Communications and Networking Laboratory, joined the UVA team during the planning grant phase of the award process and will continue their partnership with UVA in the SpectrumX project.

UVA and Northwestern share strong credentials in dynamic spectrum access, wireless communications, signal processing, machine learning, and extremely low-power radio frequency circuits. Sidiropoulos, Berry, and Guo oversee allied research projects in software-defined radio, which uses software to modulate and demodulate radio signals. Along with Shen, Berry and Guo can pool the team’s expertise in market-based solutions to spectrum access.

Devices and radio frequency circuits for millimeter and terahertz sensing, a research strength of UVA’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, represent foundational technologies that will enable metrology, measurement, and characterization of new and emerging systems. UVA professor Steven M. Bowers, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and N. Scott Barker, associate dean for academic affairs, will lead the effort.

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