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Center Independent Research & Development: JPL IRAD

Multi-Functional 3-D Printed Customized Luneburg Lens Antennas for Future Earth Science Applications

Active Technology Project

Project Introduction

This research project develops a practical multi-band scanning lens beamforming array antenna based on the principle of a Luneburg Lens (LL). Modern nature-inspired optimization methods and additive manufacturing methods enable design of non-spherical lenses in order to reduce mass and volume. New lens designs enable rapid beam scan and multi-beam antenna technology by using an array of electronic modules. The new technology will overcome mechanical scan rate and beam agility limitations that currently limits radar performance.

The goal of this research is practical multi-band scanning antenna technology that can replace complex mechanical scanning assemblies such as the mechanically spun reflectors used to achieve conical scanning on QuikScat/RapidScat class of scatterometers. Mechanical scan systems have proven to be the key single point failure that limited mission lifetime. Moreover, the new technology will overcome mechanical scan limitations beam agility and scan rate that limits radar performance. The approach in this research is a lens beamforming array based on the principle of a Luneburg Lens (LL) that is capable of full 2D scan. The classical LL is an inhomogeneous sphere in which the dielectric constant decreases with distance from the center, providing extremely large bandwidth, unlimited scan range and no scan loss. This research uses modern nature-inspired optimization methods in conjunction with additive manufacturing methods to extend the advantages of LL technology to non-spherical lenses in order to reduce mass and volume. These new lens designs form the basis of a new class of beam scan and multi-beam antenna technology which utilizes an array of electronic modules in order to provide rapid beam switching and scanning.

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