Anechoic chamber

Research at a new $15 million facility at the University of Waterloo will lead to the creation of new wireless technologies for use in everything from smartphones to cars and healthcare.

The Centre for Intelligent Antenna and Radio Systems (CIARS) and its instruments can measure electromagnetic fields radiated by objects as tiny as a human hair to as big as a two-ton truck, with the highest precision over the widest range of frequency possible in any academic facility in the world. It features four interconnected indoor laboratories, one outdoor lab, and a highly advanced computational facility.

“The University of Waterloo is very pleased to be the home of the Centre for Intelligent Antenna and Radio Systems’ new facilities, the first of their kind in Canada, and amongst the most advanced in the world,” said Pearl Sullivan, dean of engineering. “CIARS supports and promotes multidisciplinary research collaboration in highly diversified areas such as emerging intelligent wireless technologies, sensing, nano-scale radio-wave devices, bio-medical electromagnetism and more."

The centre, which opens today, is a boon for academic and industry researchers who specialize in everything from next-generation wireless communications, to mobile health, car radar, satellite communication, futuristic nano-sensors and smart devices.

CIARS features a unique multi-configuration electromagnetic radiation lab, including an anechoic chamber and terahertz measurement facilities. Researchers hope that the facility will help them learn more about terahertz, a part of the electromagnetic spectrum between radar and fibre optics that is not yet fully understood.

Global interest in new facility

“Sitting between radio frequency and light-wave, terahertz is the most exciting and least explored portion of electromagnetic spectrum, open to unlimited possibilities,” said Safieddin Safavi-Naeini of Waterloo's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and CIARS director. “We have only just started to understand and to explore terahertz in the last decade. Even though we’re just launching our new facility, word has spread and we already have considerable interest from global academic and industry circles.” 

The anechoic chamber delivers a space designed to completely absorb reflections of sound and electromagnetic waves. The chamber achieves its echo-free status with the help of multi-layers of wall, which include outer weather-protecting material, another large box crafted from copper, and big, blue, conical, spongy absorbers that line every inch. Not only is it designed to keep out interference from other electromagnetic devices, the chamber creates an open space of infinite dimensions. In other words, it’s a room that, at least according to the instrumentation, seems to go on for infinity.

“This centre builds on the Faculty of Engineering's international reputation for research excellence, and further demonstrates Waterloo's position as a leader in innovation and collaboration ready to solve the challenges of the future,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of Waterloo.