For the homeowner who has everything, how about a window shade that doubles as a satellite-TV antenna? Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, with funding from the Defense Dept., have developed an antenna that consists of a plastic sheet up to 30 inches by 40 inches, with tiny antenna wires and circuits printed on its surface. The sheet, known as a phased-array antenna, could literally hang in the window like a curtain, although Georgia Tech researchers say it would more likely be placed on a roof or wall.
About 40 of the antennas have been built to date. Each is custom-made for the angle at which it will be mounted and the kind of signal it will receive, such as satellite TV or wireless phone calls. Calculations for the layout once required a supercomputer, but can now be performed on a personal computer. Edward B. Joy, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, says the Defense Dept. wants antennas that can be easily concealed. Joy and his colleagues hope to invent cheaper versions that could be built into walls.