June 5 - Engineers at the American University of Beirut have high hopes for a compact antenna shaped like a cedar tree -- Lebanon's national symbol -- which they say can be used for wireless and 3G connections and eventually TV transmission. Joel Flynn reports.
The cedar tree is, for Lebanese, a source of national pride, prominently displayed on the country's flag, airline and bank notes. But, until recently, few could have imagined that the tree's shape could have technological significance as well. Engineers at the American University in Beirut have developed a new type of antenna in the shape of the tree, that they say could revolutionise telecommunications. Mohammad al-Husseini is one of the PhD students who has helped develop it. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MOHAMED AL-HUSSEINI, PHD GRADUATE, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF BEIRUT, SAYING: "If we can look at the cedar antenna we have a triangle and we have another triangle and another triangle and the shape keeps repeating itself, so what does it mean in antenna engineering? It means we can use this antenna to operate at multiple frequencies and this is our goal, so the symbolism of the cedar and then the fractal shape of the cedar." The fractal shape is what gives the antenna its sought-after properties. Fractals are complex geometric designs that repeat themselves on several scales. Their so-called "self-similarity" is what allows the antenna to operate across a range of frequencies. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MOHAMED AL-HUSSEINI, PHD GRADUATE, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF BEIRUT, SAYING: "A switch is either on or off. When we change the state, the frequency, this frequency moves from one part to another part, so this corresponds to another case of the same antenna so the switches are different and as you can see the frequency shifted. So here we got operation at another frequency, so our goal is to be able to, these switches over here, to be able to control them, to make the software responsible for moving the resonance frequency." A prototype of the cedar antenna has proven successful. Professor Karim Kabalan, who has supervised the project, says while it can currently be built into devices such as mobile phones and computers, eventually it could be able to transmit television bandwidths as well. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHAIRMAN OF THE DEPARTMENT OF COMPUTER AND ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING AT THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF BEIRUT, PROFESSOR KARIM KABALAN, SAYING: "Now there is more extension to the idea. That is, we would like the switches to be operated by software, as Mohamed has mentioned before, and we would like also to have the same antennas that operate at a TV band by which we can use it for TV transmission rather than only Wi-Fi or 3G, or wireless types of communications." The University is in the process of applying for a patent in the United States. If successful, the cedar's popularity is likely to grow far beyond Lebanon. Joel Flynn, Reuters.