Beyond 5G: UCSB is Lead for Ambitious New Project

Monday, June 18, 2018

Imagine a roomful of a thousand students all simultaneously experiencing an augmented-reality lecture and demonstration. Or, how about riding in an autonomous vehicle that can detect, in real time and despite inclement weather, an accident or obstacle miles ahead? For those scenarios to be possible, we need a new, enhanced generation of wireless communication.

That is the focus of the newly established ComSen­Ter, a $27.5 million center for converged terahertz communications and sensing at UC Santa Barbara, led by UCSB professor of electrical and computer engineering professor Mark Rodwell.

“Our center is simply the next generation of communication and sensing, something that may become ‘6G,’” said collaborator Ali Niknejad, ComSenTer associate director and a UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences.

The next-generation 5G (for 5 GHz) network is expected to be deployed in 2020 and provide significantly enhanced speed and performance. ComSenTer’s research will go further, laying the foundation for using extremely high frequencies in the range of 100 GHz to 1 THz, which, according to the researchers, will enable thousands of simultaneous wireless connections having ten to one thousand times more capacity than will be possible on the 5G network.

Augmented reality, next-level imaging, sensing with terahertz imaging radar, chemical sensors, and new medical imaging modalities are some of the potential applications that ComSenTer researchers will seek to realize. 

ComSenTer is part of the new $200 million, five-year Joint University Microelectronics Program (JUMP), a consortium of industry research participants and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), administered by Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC). The partnership will fund research centers at six top research universities: UCSB, Carnegie Mellon University, Purdue University, the the University of Michigan, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Virginia,.

UCSB also is a collaborator in two other research centers in the JUMP initiative: CRISP (Center for Research on Intelligent Storage and Processing-in-memory), led by Kevin Skadron at the University of Virginia, and ASCENT (Applications and Systems driven Center for Energy Efficient Integrated NanoTechnologies), led by Suman Datta at Notre Dame University.