MIT's new RF antenna assembly, uses a signal processing chip inspired by the human ear to create a signal processor more powerful than any existing models, which runs at 1/100th of the power.  (Source: MIT)
New antenna is ultra wide-band while using 1/100th of the power of a standard antenna

Even the best manmade designs are often outclassed by nature's own creations.  This is the case with a new signal processing chip from MIT which promises to dramatically improve RF reception.

The new processor is inspired by parts of the biological cochlea -- an integral component of the human ear.  In the human ear the cochlea uses fluid mechanics, piezoelectrics and neural signal processing to convert sound waves into electrical signals which are transferred to the brain, yielding sounds.  

Rahul Sarpeshkar, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his graduate student, Soumyajit Mandal, were awed at the ear's design as they examined it.  States Professor Sarpeshkar, "The more I started to look at the ear, the more I realized it's like a super radio with 3,500 parallel channels."

Inspired by the design, the MIT researchers created a "RF Cochlea" chip which acts as an analog spectrum analyzer.  Using an attached antenna the chip mimics the neural signal processing of the cochlea to improve its reception, making a standard antenna super.  

The results are extremely impressive.  Faster than any RF spectrum analyzer, the device is ultra-wide band and can receive signals on and differentiate between a broad range of frequencies, like the human ear.  It also consumes 100 times less power than current state-of-the-art models.

Describes Professor Sarpeshkar, "The work provides an analysis of why cochlear spectrum analysis is faster than any known spectrum-analysis algorithm. Thus, it sheds light on the mechanism of hearing as well."

Professor Sarpeshkar's research group at the MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics has been mastering the art of emulating the human body for some time now.  They previously developed an analog speech-synthesis chip based on the human vocal tract, which they hope to apply to speech recognition and voice identification.

The new discovery easily outdoes that one, though, as the new chip could make for a very low power "all in one" antenna.  The device could be used to pick up cellular phone, wireless Internet, FM, and TV signals in devices like laptops or smartphones.

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