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Murdock grant funds digital infrastructure

Closeup of Subhanshu Gupta
Subhanshu Gupta in a pre-2020 photo.

A WSU research team has received an MJ Murdock Charitable Trust grant to develop a market-ready wireless receiver for next-generation data communications systems.  

Modern wireless networks are capable of much higher data volumes than in the past and make possible a growing market of “smart” devices and applications in areas ranging from telemedicine to aviation communications, says Subhanshu Gupta, associate professor in WSU’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science who is leading the project.   

As society moves to the next generation of data communications, instead of single towers emitting a cellular signal that people receive on their phones, systems are becoming more complex. Elements that relay signals will increasingly be embedded throughout surrounding infrastructure, so that any surface can become a transmitter. 

These densely congested wireless networks, however, suffer from interference challenges, particularly in the demanding world of airplane communications systems and satellites that often have thousands of antenna elements. Because of the highly complex signal processing required, conventional transceivers don’t work well.  In developing next-generation wireless systems for a plane flying through the air, researchers are also constrained by power availability, size, and the weight of any system.  

“The three things combine to create a very tough engineering challenge,” Gupta said.

Supported by a National Science Foundation Career Award, the WSU researchers have recently developed a multi-antenna receiver technology that solves interference challenges.  As part of the new Murdock grant, they will integrate the receiver that they developed with conformal antenna technology from the Boeing Company and a processor to create a solution for aviation uses. In addition to the Boeing Company, the work is being done with support from NextFlex Institute, an institute that supports manufacturing in flexible hybrid electronics, the WSU Office of Commercialization, and the Washington Research Foundation.

“This research solves a critical aviation and digital infrastructure problem while providing a significant technology gain for companies like Boeing to realize integrated true-time-delay solutions for airborne and large transmit distance phased-array applications,” said Gupta.  “This project will enable new applications and open new markets, including for satellite and aerospace design, low-power sensors for mobile industrial communication, autonomous vehicles, localization, and radar.” 

Students and former students who have worked on the project include Erfan Ghaderi, Chung Ching Lin, Chase Puglisi, Shrestha Bansal, and Qiuyan Xu. Ray Combs, director of entrepreneurial studies in WSU’s Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship Institute, also serves as a primary investigator on the project.

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, created by the will of the late Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, provides grants to nonprofit organizations in the Pacific Northwest that seek to strengthen the region’s educational, social, spiritual, and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways, according to their website.

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