VISORSURF: A Hardware Platform for Software-driven Functional Metasurfaces

Metasurfaces, thin film planar, artificial structures, have recently enabled the realization of novel electromagnetic and optical components with engineered and even unnatural functionalities. These include electromagnetic invisibility of objects (cloaking), total radiation absorption, or miniaturized antennas for sensors and implantable communication devices. Nonetheless, metasurfaces are presently non-adaptive and non-reusable, restricting their applicability to a single functionality per structure (e.g., steering light towards a fixed direction) and to static structures only.

Moreover, designing a metasurface remains a task for specialized researchers, limiting their accessibility from the broad engineering field. VISORSURF proposes a hardware platform -the HyperSurface- that can host metasurface functionalities described in software. The HyperSurface essentially merges existing metasurfaces with nanonetworks, acting as a reconfigurable (globally, locally, upon request or depending on the environment) metasurface, whose properties can be changed via a software interface. This control is achieved by a network of miniaturized controllers, incorporated into the structure of the metasurface. The controllers receive programmatic directives and perform simple alterations on the metasur-face structure, adjusting its electromagnetic behavior. The required end-functionality is described in well-defined, reusable software modules, adding the potential for hosting multiple functionalities concurrently and adaptively. VISORSURF will study in depth the novel and unexplored theoretical capabilities of the HyperSurface concept.

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Graphene-enabled Wireless Networks-on-Chip for Massive Multicore Architectures (GWNoCS)

Current trends in microprocessor architecture design are leading towards a dramatic increase of core-level parallelization, wherein a given number of independent processors or cores are interconnected. Since the main bottleneck is foreseen to migrate from computation to communication, efficient and scalable means of inter-core communication are crucial for guaranteeing steady performance improvements in many-core processors.

As the number of cores grows, it remains unclear whether initial proposals, such as the Network-on-Chip paradigm, will meet the stringent requirements of this scenario. In this context, the present project aims to lay the foundations of a new research avenue where massive multicore architectures have wireless communication capabilities at the core level. This goal is feasible by using graphene-based planar antennas, which can radiate signals at the Terahertz band while utilizing much less chip area than its metallic counterparts. The resulting Graphene-enabled Wireless Networks-on-Chip (GWNoC) would enable efficient broadcasting, multicasting, all-to-all communication, which would impact upon the performance of virtually any future application by significantly reducing many of the issues that prevent current architectures to be applied in massively multicore environments, including data coherency, consistency, synchronization and communication problems.

The present project is divided in two parts. In the first one, a design space exploration is performed, aiming at providing a holistic view of the on-chip networking scenario. By means of analytical models and network simulation tools, the scalability of GWNoC in terms of network performance, area and energy efficiency is evaluated and then compared with the performance of different state-of-the-art interconnect solutions. The second phase of the project, which partially overlaps with the design space exploration, is devoted to the design and development of protocols for GWNoC, with particular focus on the physical and medium access control (MAC) layers. MAC protocols are of special importance since the GWNoC scenario potentially implies dealing with hundreds or even thousands of simultaneous multicast transmissions. Efficiently coping with such communication-intensive requirements will be the key for translating the potential of GWNoC into real performance improvement in next-generation multiprocessor architectures.

Graphene-enabled Wireless Communications

Graphene, in the form of graphene-based nano-antennas (or shortly named graphennas), is envisaged to revolutionize the realm of short-range wireless communications. The plasmonic effects occurring inside graphennas allow them to radiate electromagnetic waves in the terahertz band (0.1-10 THz), potentially enabling terabit per second transmissions. Moreover, at this particular frequency band, the size of graphennas is two orders of magnitude below that of metallic antennas. For all this, the current project will study the application of Graphene-enabled Wireless Communications (GWC) within the scenario of high-datarate off-chip and on-chip communication, in which the area occupied by the antenna and the transceiver might be a critical factor. The project is aimed at:

  • The characterization of the electromagnetic properties of graphene-based nano-antennas
  • The development of new channel models -including the antenna- for terahertz communications and distances below tens of millimeters
  • The exploration of the coding and modulations design space for high-datarate communication, with particular focus on the impulse radio paradigm.

More information here.

Fundamentals and Applications of Molecular Nanonetworks through Cell Signalling

The project on Molecular Communication focuses on the study and the analysis of information exchange through molecules. Molecular Communication research is carried out following a bio-inspired approach, thus envisioning a tight symbiosis between future synthetic devices and natural living organisms. Molecular Communication architectures can be found and studied in nature since they are at the basis of cell to cell information exchange. The main goal of the project is the design and the realization of communication architectures at the molecular scale, thus enabling a wide range of applications spanning from the biomedical to the environmental and military field. The project development includes: i) theoretical studies devoted to the understanding of the physics underlying information exchange through molecules; ii) mathematical modeling of the molecular communication channel using tools from Communication Engineering and Information Theory; iii) research of novel insights and breakthroughs enabling the design of communication systems for information exchange both among synthetic nano-devices and between synthetic nano-devices and living entities.

N3Sim: A Simulation Framework for Diffusion-based Molecular Communication

N3Sim is a complete simulation framework for diffusion-based molecular communications, which allows the evaluation of the communication performance of molecular networks with several transmitters and receivers in an infinite space with a given concentration of molecules. Transmitters encode the information by releasing particles into the medium, thus varying the concentration rate in their vicinity. The diffusion of particles through the medium is modeled as Brownian motion, taking into account particle inertia and collisions among particles. Finally, receivers decode the information by sensing the local concentration in their neighborhood. The benefits of such a simulator are multiple: the validation of existing channel models for molecular communications and the evaluation of novel modulation schemes are just two examples.

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TUGRACO: Towards Ubiquitous GRAphene based RF COmmunications – demonstrating and understanding graphene based plasmonic THz antenna potential and limitations

Nanotechnology is increasingly providing a plethora of new tools to design and manufacture miniaturized devices such as ubiquitous sensors, wearable electronics or pervasive computing systems. Such devices require wireless communications for information sharing and coordination. Unfortunately, reducing the size (and concomitantly cost) of such devices is severely restricted by the dimensions of metallic antennas. Graphene offers a radical alternative to downscale antennas by orders of magnitude thanks to its special dispersion relation and its ability to support surface-plasmon polaritons (SPP) in the terahertz frequency band. Indeed, a graphene RF plasmonic micro-antenna with lateral dimensions of a few micrometers is predicted to resonate in the terahertz band (0.3-10 THz) at a frequency up to two orders of magnitude lower and with higher radiation efficiency with respect to metallic counterparts. In consequence, graphene micro-antennas provide a huge integration potential for future miniaturized wireless systems and represents an enabling technology for the future dominant ICT applications envisioned by e.g. Internet of Things.

More information here.