Anechoic Chamber Contribution
IMSC News story by Rick Keir
Computer industry pioneer Paul Allen recently contributed to IMSC's ultrawideband (UWB) wireless technology research with a $200,000 donation through one of his firms, Vulcan Ventures, for funding an RF anechoic chamber to support UWB work by IMSC key investigator Prof. Robert Scholtz.
The chamber, which will be about 15 feet high, 15 feet wide and 30 feet long, and its control room will be named the Paul G. Allen Wireless Test Facility.
Dr. Scholtz, Director of the Ultrawideband Radio Laboratory (UltRa Lab) and Professor of Electrical Engineering-Systems, said the chamber and its control room will enable careful measurement of UWB signals in a controlled electromagnetic environment.
The test facility will be completed in about five months and housed initially in Vivian Hall. The facility will be moved to IMSC's new home, the School of Engineering's planned academic center, Ronald Tutor Hall, when the hall is completed.
Allen, who co-founded Microsoft Corp. along with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and remains on the Microsoft board, has invested in a broad range of companies in a variety of technology sectors since leaving Microsoft in the mid-1980s.
Jeffrey W. Lin, an Analyst with Vulcan Ventures who visited the UltraLab to assess its needs, said of the contribution, "We view the involvement as very strategic to Vulcan's wireless technology investments for recruiting and basic research."
Lin added that Vulcan has invested in the wireless area involving such companies as Metricom, Shareware, WavTrace, Magis Networks and Fantasma Networks. Dr. Scholtz is an advisory board member of Magis and Robert Wilson, an IMSC graduate student, worked this past summer as an intern for Fantasma (www.fantasma.net), which aims at building UWB radios for the home communications environment.
Dr. Scholtz expressed appreciation for the donation, saying that the chamber will allow researchers to characterize UWB radio antennas without having to worry about the multipath effects and interference that normally occur in a laboratory environment. He pointed out that the contribution is consistent with other investments by Allen in wireless technology, especially citing Fantasma Networks.
IMSC has been in the forefront of developing UWB technology, which uses pulses of radio energy, rather than radio waves, to transmit information wirelessly in a digital form. "From the founding of IMSC four years ago, the UWB research has been one of our unique research programs," according to Chrysostomos L. (Max) Nikias, IMSC's Director.
The technology offers a variety of possible short-range radio applications, from wireless voice and high-speed data communications for the home to low-power, indentification, and precise positioning systems. Ultrawideband radio could offer extremely low-power communications systems that tend to penetrate physical objects, are almost immune to eavesdropping, can tolerate significant levels of interference, and can eliminate many forms of multipath fading. The UltRa Lab's Web site is http://ultra.usc.edu/ulab.