Research within the chair focuses strongly on developing analysis and design methods, as well as the human capital, to deliver the enabling antenna systems technology for the future needs of the SKA radio telescope. Given the current requirements and capabilities of the SKA antenna systems, the research will be classified into three main categories namely:
- Array Antennas
- Wideband Reflector Feed Antennas
- RFI Monitoring.
To contextualize the research focus within the SKA project development, one should consider that most of the antenna technology for the first phase of the SKA project is reaching maturity. The focus for the development of new technology should therefore address the needs of SKA phase 2 and beyond. Here the emphasis falls strongly on high performance array systems – both direct radiating aperture array types and phased array feeds – as well as ultra wideband reflector feed antennas. In addition, maintaining a pristine RF quiet environment is critical for the successful operation of the SKA, and continual monitoring and identification of sources of RFI will be required in the long term to achieve this goal.
On a research level, in order to develop the advanced array, wideband feed, and RFI monitoring technologies required for future expansion of the SKA, state-of-the art modelling and optimisation strategies must be used for the design of the antenna system elements. The use of modern computational electromagnetic (CEM) solvers to obtain full-wave solutions of antenna responses have become standard, but using such solutions in optimisation loops of complex antenna systems can be prohibitively time consuming. The research will thus need to focus on improved CEM as well as optimisation and modelling techniques to be able to design these antenna systems in reasonable time frames, as well as to be able to make clear conclusions on their performance limitations. As such, the relevant performance metrics in an interferometric radio telescope array must be well understood. Collaboration with other groups working on similar problems is therefore critical for the success of the project, since this opens up the possibility for the exchange of ideas and sharing of experience and expertise. Practically, the antenna systems developed through advanced modelling and optimisation design must also be physically prototyped and measured in order to qualify their suitability for large scale implementation. This requires practical engineering skills, and a broad understanding of the system in which the antennas must operate. In order to develop these skills, the Masters’ level research program is strongly driven by development and prototyping of simple demonstrator antenna systems, and by participation in the SUNDOG project.
More information on completed research can be found on the publications and graduates pages, while details of research interests of the group and current projects are available on the people page. Topics for possible future research are available on the bursaries page.