In 2016 ECE Prof. Gabriel Rebeiz was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest professional honors for engineers. He was recognized for his “contributions to radio-frequency micro-electronmechanical systems (RF MEMS) and phased-array technologies.”
Rebeiz is a pioneer in the development of the arrays of electronically-steered antennas that will soon be much lighter, generate less draft and prove more reliable than today’s mechanically-driven antenna systems which airlines install on top of their planes to allow passengers to use the Internet five or six miles in the air.
“With phased arrays we are migrating from mechanical movement to electronic scanning,” says Rebeiz, who holds the Wireless Communications Industry Chair in the Jacobs School of Engineering.
Phased arrays of electronically-steered antennas are also being incorporated into next-generation automotive radar system for autonomous (self-driving) cars in the not-too- distant future, and Rebeiz’s lab is working with Toyota on the hardware for a system to capture high-resolution images covering a 100-meter areas surrounding a moving car. The experimental phased array radar system, he says, involves a delay of less than a micro-second. Rebeiz and his group received a 2014 R&D 100 Award from R&D Magazine for its phase array radar system under development.
Rebeiz joined the ECE faculty in 2005, after teaching at the University of Michigan, and he has mentored or advised more than 100 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers through the years. Among his past students: Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf, who was a graduate student of Rebeiz at Michigan. Phased arrays of antennas will soon begin appearing in many other types of equipment and industries in addition to cars and airplanes. They are critical to the fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks, where they will be installed on cell phones as well as cellular base stations, beginning as early as 2019 –permitting data rates up to one gigabit per second (vs. the 30 to 50 megabits of data per second in today’s Wi-Fi transmission. “5G standards will be based on phased arrays, both for base stations and for mobile devices including phones, tablets and laptops,” said Rebeiz. “We are now building 28 Gigahertz phased arrays for 5G and will have working systems by the end of the year.”