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Researchers say tiny antennas inside microchips are possible

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Antennas still need to be big: Big enough to work and create the electromagnetic waves needed to communicate. It's one of the physical limitations of electronics that means that anything in connected tech can only be so small. But that could well change in the future. Research published in Physical Review Letters, have led to the theory that electromagnetic waves are generated not only by the acceleration of electronics, but also due to something called "symmetry breaking", where an electric field that's typically symmetrical, well, isn't. When electronic charges aren't in motion, this symmetry holds up, but when it starts moving, this disruption apparently creates electromagnetic waves -- these are what could lead to a new breed of tiny, tiny antennas and possibly a new generation of smartphone design and Internet Of Things... things.

Relatively old electromagnetic theory (from the 19th century!) doesn't have a well-defined mathematical model, and can't dosn't explain how a material that doesn't let electrons move around is able to act as an antenna. Dr Dhiraj Sinha, the paper's lead author, said:"This mystery has puzzled scientists and engineers for more than 60 years."

Using thin films of piezoelectric material that is reacts and vibrates when voltage is applied, the researchers found at certain frequencies that they could act like aerials. "If you want to use these materials to transmit energy, you have to break the symmetry as well as have accelerating electrons - this is the missing piece of the puzzle of electromagnetic theory," said Professor Gehan Amaratunga of Cambridge's Department of Engineering.

The findings are just the starting point, however: "I'm not suggesting we've come up with some grand unified theory, but these results will aid understanding of how electromagnetism and quantum mechanics cross over and join up. It opens up a whole set of possibilities to explore," added Amaratunga.

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