Microwaves in Europe: Historical Milestones and Industry Update, Part I
Tracing from Maxwell, through World War II to the communications boom and beyond, this report provides an insight into Europe’s historical role and the part it continues to play in the development of the global microwave industry.
When Ted Saad and Bill Bazzy took their “Flight into the European Market” in 1963, they presented a snapshot of the European microwave market at an interesting point in time. At the beginning of the ‘Swinging 60s’ there was a hopeful perception that the swing would be towards prosperity driven by innovation. The continent was well on its way to economic recovery after World War II, fuelled by technological and commercial development, and eager to satisfy the appetite of a developing consumer society. Yet, in hindsight, it was also a time that was ignorant of the imminent communications boom (and bust) that has since impacted significantly on society and the microwave industry that serves it.
Nearly 50 years on, do Saad’s and Bazzy’s observations still ring true? Do European companies concentrate on manufacturing rather than research and development? Is the largest percentage of microwave work in the defence sector? And whatever did happen to that Swedish company, L.M. Ericsson?
This article aims to answer some of those questions, while maintaining the historical theme of Microwave Journal’s 50th anniversary year with a potted history of microwaves in Europe in addition to considering present and future trends. To do so Microwave Journal has enlisted the expertise and knowledge of Prof. Roberto Sorrentino, the president of the European Microwave Association, aided by EuMA regional members from selected European countries. They chart historical, industrial, academic, research and political changes, and proffer an insight into future trends.
Space constraints mean that this report cannot include every significant, industry defining event. Please visit our blog to add events you think should have been included (microwavejournal.blogspot.com).
The Geographical Landscape
Microwaves in Europe Overview
Roberto Sorrentino and André Vander Vorst
Electromagnetic science was born in Europe, essentially in the 19th century. We all know the names and contributions of Ampère, Coulomb, Faraday, Gauss, Lenz, Oersted, Ohm and others. They were clever enough to make accurate measurements at a time of limited funds and of expensive equipment, and for extracting experimental laws out of their measurements.
Then came Maxwell who spent his professional life working as a professor in Aberdeen, London, and Cambridge, UK, with his two contributions: One which said that all these former experimental laws needed to be taken into account, not independently but as a system of equations; the other by introducing a ‘missing term’: the displacement current.
Maxwell’s equations did not become famous rapidly. As well as being modest, Maxwell did not have formal use of div and curl, so he had 20 equations in 20 variables with what we today call magnetic vector potential as primary. Maxwell’s equations were simply too complicated. Also, when he published the equations in their complete form (1865), he made no attempt to connect them back to the lord and ruler of physics at that time, Isaac Newton; there was no mechanical model.
As a result, no one realized the significance of Maxwell’s equations until over 20 years after Maxwell’s 1865 publication and almost a decade after his death. This is when Hertz independently derived them in their modern form and went on to experimentally confirming that light is indeed an electromagnetic wave.
The abstract concept of using what came to be known as ‘fields’, with absolutely no connection to Newton and f = ma, revolutionized physics. Maxwell was in fact the inspiration for Einstein and his (field) theories of relativity. Freeing physics from the confining womb of Newtonian mechanics led directly to all the major developments of 20thcentury physics. It was actually this much more significant but lesser realized accomplishment that was Maxwell’s most significant legacy.
Hertz confirmed experimentally that light is an electromagnetic wave and that these waves propagate. He showed that high frequency oscillations could produce an effect at a distance, and that this action requires time. The word ‘propagation’ comes from these two concepts: action at a distance and non-instantaneous character of the effect. Applications were there and around 1894, Marconi invented ‘radio’, the practical way to transmit information trough air at a distance. In 1899, his signals went beyond the Channel; in 1901, beyond the Atlantic Ocean. To do so, antennas had to be developed: propagation and radiation are intimately entwined. Simultaneously there were proposals for having electromagnetic wave propagation along structures of varied form, like two-wire lines, coaxial cables and metallic guides.
The 20th century had not yet begun when Lodge invented radiation from waveguides, Rayleigh published solutions of Maxwell’s equations for fields in rectangular and circular waveguides, Bose developed a semiconducting detector at 60 GHz, and the door opened on Hertzian links with paraboloidal aerials.
From a theoretical point of view, the first ten years of the 20th century saw Einstein publishing his famous four papers. Later, it was shown that applying a relativistic transformation to Coulomb’s law while postulating the speed of light constant with respect to the observer, a postulate proven later by experiment, yields relativistic expressions for electromagnetic force, from which Maxwell’s equations can then be deduced: In significantly less than 100 years, the 19th century electric and magnetic experimental laws were proved to be included in the theory of relativity.
All this generated a very significant microwave legacy, and explains why comprehensive advances in microwaves have been achieved in Europe in the 20th century, in line with the 19th century developments.
One example concerns the concepts of bi-isotropy, bi-anisotropy, non-reciprocity and chirality, introduced by Arago and Pasteur in the 19th century, and further investigated in 1920 and later. Another is the scattering matrix (S-matrix) of most common use for tens of years, developed independently in Europe and in the US around 1945. A third is the gyrator, also developed at the end of the 1940s. Also, a significant European-coordinated effort in the field of microwave propagation, in particular tropospheric propagation. Even the term ‘microwaves’, in its current meaning, was first introduced in an international scientific journal (IRE Proceedings) in 1932 by the Italian physicist N. Carrara.
There is no definitive date but microwave activities in a number of European countries may be traced back to the radar interests of the 1930s, although the first patent had been taken in Germany before 1910. Several companies worked on the first magnetrons. A quite significant achievement was the design and installation of a chain of radar stations (Chain Home) along the East and South coast of England in 1938, in time for the outbreak of war.
Microwave development during World War II was outstanding. Since then, the microwave infrastructure has grown extensively, encompassing university, industry, and government ministries, in support of comprehensive research, development, and production of microwave practices to meet wide-ranging applications covering all microwave fields from radio to terahertz frequencies. In the early decades, this was motivated by military needs; more recently, civil broadcast and communication interests have become increasingly dominant.
One of the most exciting fields of advancing technology over the last 50 years has been in microwave solid-state devices with associated integrated circuits. Such a very large quantitative growth, as well as continuous advances in research, industrial development, and education, has been driven by the dramatic growth of applications, particularly of telecommunications systems.
By its very nature Europe is a conglomeration of individual and disparate countries with its own established industries and centres of academic and commercial research. In the past, many of these research establishments would have worked independently. However, that has gradually changed with the expanded European Union putting greater emphasis on cooperation and collaboration to pool resources, harness technological expertise, and forge partnerships to create real and productive initiatives.
A major medium for addressing these issues is the EU Framework Programmes (FP) that identify key areas of research and development and organise and fund specific pan-European collaborative projects via its Networks of Excellence (NoE) Programmes that encourage pan-European collaboration and the input of academia, research institutes and industry.
That is a very succinct overview of the history and development of the European microwave industry as a whole. To gain an insight into the roles that individual European nations have, and continue to play, the following reviews consider the contribution of individual countries. The reviews were coordinated by EuMA colleagues; most of them had previously contributed to a paper1 presenting an overview of microwave activities and infrastructures in Europe, which they have updated. Due to space constraints and the vastness of the subject, not all European countries can be included.
From fairly on, the Swedish company, SRA, later part of Ericsson, focused on mobile systems for telephony, which paved the way for the key role that Sweden now plays in wireless communications. The cellular systems NMT 450 and NMT 900, developed in Sweden, marked a significant change toward non-military applications of microwaves. Ericsson is still the dominating Swedish company in the microwave field with its focus on communications. The company also had a special arm focusing on microwave technology, Ericsson Microwave Systems AB with microwave products for both civilian and military applications, in particular, transmission, certain base stations and sensor (radar) systems. The defence arm of the company later became part of Saab, which is the largest Swedish company with development of advanced microwave systems for military applications.
Smaller companies like Saab Space, Sivers IMA, and Omnisys Instruments focus on civilian products for different applications. Rosemount Tank Radar (part of Emerson Process Management) has a strong reputation for radars based on FMCW techniques such as level gauging applications in oil tankers.
Academically, modern microwave technology teaching and research began during the early 1940s at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, and at Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg. Defence-oriented research in propagation, microwave technology, and radar/EW systems became important during the war and, since 1945, has been continued at FOA, today the Swedish Defence Research Agency FOI.
FOI, Linköping, is active in the fields of phased-array antenna technology (e.g., antennas, T/R modules, broadband microwave circuits and components), high-power microwave protection and electromagnetic compatibility, radar cross-sectional analysis, and the design of radar and EW systems. The well-known CARABAS synthetic aperture radar developed at FOI points the way ahead for future radar systems. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Microwave Institute, now ACREO, Stockholm, built up competence in semiconductor microwave components.
Also, radio astronomy has historically been strong in Sweden, with the Onsala Space Observatory for radio astronomy established in 1949. Today, the observatory is responsible for telescopes not only at Onsala, but also in Chile. Due to the inspiration from radio astronomy research, low noise has for many years been an important focus at Chalmers. In February 2001, the Odin satellite radio astronomy observatory was launched with advanced quasi-optical 500 GHz receiver and amplifiers (IF and 119 GHz) designed and built at Chalmers. Chalmers has also delivered world-record low-noise temperature THz heterodyne receivers for the Herschel telescope soon to be launched by the European Space Agency.
Other Chalmers’ microwave research activities concern wide bandgap technologies (SiC and Gan MMICs, SiC MOSFETs); tuneable components based on ferroelectrics, THz varactors, and array-type SIS receivers. There is also significant activity regarding III-V MMIC design for multi-functional solutions in mm-wave communication and sensor systems. Today, much of the Swedish microwave research is performed in partnerships between Chalmers and industry. In the GigaHertz Centre, the focus is on switched-mode amplifiers for efficient PAs in radio base stations while Chalmers and FOI are researching sensor systems beyond 100 GHz.
United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland/Terry Oxley
Microwave activities within the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland (UK&RI) may be traced back to radar interests of the 1930s/40s as demonstrated by the Marconi Co. work on design/installation of the ‘Chain Home’ network of radar equipment and the General Electric Company (GEC)/Birmingham University work (Randall & Boot) on the first magnetrons.
Over the last fifty years or so, one of the most exciting fields of advancing technology has been in microwave solid-state devices with associated integrated circuits. Originating from the work in World War II by GEC Research Laboratories and British Thomson Houston Research Laboratories (merged with GEC in the 1960s) on semiconductor diode receiver technology, there have been many participating establishments that have contributed to the UK&RI world competitive position in the field, and provided the focus for internationally recognized technical achievements. However, as will be demonstrated, as the result of company mergers, many major companies involved in early microwave business have been restructured with rationalisation of their autonomous product companies.
The GEC Research Laboratories founded in 1924, later known as Hirst Research Centre (HRC), ceased operation in the early 2000s. Based on the development of the silicon point-contact receiver mixer diode during the 1940s, the R&D widened to a broad range of two and three terminal Si-, Ge- and GaAs-based devices, for many low and high power applications.
The Centre was recognised as a principal contributor to microwave receiver technology via point-contact diodes, planar devices, MICs and MMICs, over the frequency range of 1 to 100 GHz. An MIC superheterodyne receiver integrated unit was demonstrated in a short range, operational, X-band link in 1968, believed to be a world first. HRC was also a leader in its ability to integrate planar ferrite non-reciprocal devices in MICs. Following the merger of GEC and Plessey, the GaAs HRC and Caswell activities were consolidated at the Caswell site in 1990. Plessey Research (Caswell) Ltd., established in 1940, became GEC-Marconi Materials Technology Ltd. (merger of GEC and Plessey) in 1990, and is currently part of Bookham Technology plc.
Work on GaAs led to the world’s first demonstrated GaAs FET in 1966, the announcement of the world’s first commercial GaAs FET for microwave applications in 1970, and the publication of the world’s first FET-based GaAs MMIC in 1976. In the 1980s it established a GaAs MMIC technology capability up to 100 GHz, and a MMIC foundry. The facility was later upgraded to handle 150 mm wafers for microwave and optical applications. Currently, the facility only processes InP for optical communication devices.
Standard Telecommunication Laboratories (STL), now Nortel Networks, commenced GaAs technology R&D in the 1960s and made important contributions to GaAs Transferred Electron Devices (TED). In 1971, the company demonstrated GaAs diode-based monolithic integrated circuits applied to millimetre-wavelengths. Involved in pioneering work on optical fibre transmission it moved its semiconductor interests to opto-electronics in the 1980s. Mullard Research Laboratories (MRL), in association with Philips Semiconductors, later Philips Research Laboratories, is now known as Philips Research Redhill.
During 2006, Philips sold 80 percent of its semiconductors business to a consortium of private equity partners, laying the foundation for an independent semiconductors company, Next eXperience (NXP). MRL developed the first European liquid helium MASER used to receive TV satellite signals across the Atlantic. The Department of Electronics at MRL now mainly focuses on wireless communication projects.
Marconi Research Centre Great Baddow, established in 1939, later BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre, can trace its origins as a Marconi Research Department created in 1913. The Centre traditionally involved in state-of-the-art communications and radar studies embraces wider ranging activities in the microwave/mm-wave/optical fields, with extensive on-site support resources. Currently the Centre delivers the frontline in technology innovation, acquisition, development and insertion for BAE Systems and its joint venture organisations.
ERA Technology Ltd., a UK Research and Technology organisation, provides the leading edge of advanced technology consultancy and design. The business was founded in the 1920s and during the 1970s it was involved in research of image line waveguiding systems for MICs. Today it provides specialist, high value-added, technology-based services including design and development, testing, assessment and expert advice, e.g. antennas for automotive and satellite communications.
Filtronics Ltd., established in 1977, went public in 1994, and is a spin-off from the University of Leeds. Originally recognised for producing filters for telecommunications, it has become a leading supplier of wireless infrastructure subsystem products, and is now involved in III-V compound semiconductors with related product R&D and manufacture; representing in the 2000s the only GaAs foundry within the UK (in March 2008 the compound semiconductor part of the business was acquired by RFMD).
English Electric Valves (EEV) Lincoln became Marconi Applied Technologies in 1999, and then in 2002 became part of e2v Technologies (UK) Ltd. The site under EEV was originally known for its glass- based receiving and transmitting valves and transmit/receive cell technology; in later years this incorporated solid-state power limiter/switch techniques. Now as e2v, it is possibly the only UK&RI centre for R&D and manufacture of GaAs two terminal devices, particularly the TED; the technology base being transferred from Marconi Electronic Devices (MEDL) and HRC.
Finally, M/A-COM, formerly Microwave Associates Ltd., has had an independent operation in the UK since the early 1960s, with early involvement in producing silicon point contact diodes. It has made many contributions in the R&D fields of microwave solid-state device, components and sub-systems. It is now located in a new facility at Milton Keynes, M/A-COM (Tyco Electronics Ltd.), where it supports three business units with continuing microwave interests (currently under agreement to be acquired by Cobham).
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) support in R&D, both technical and funding, has been important. A very significant MoD establishment is the one at Malvern, originally Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE), then Royal Signals Radar Establishment (RSRE), then the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) Malvern, and now part of the QinetiQ organization [in 2001 DERA separated into two organizations; QinetiQ (independent science and technology company) and Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL), an agency of the UK Ministry of Defence]. The Malvern site has been involved in wide ranging microwave activities: Pioneering work on GaAs and InP transferred electron effects, development of key radars including solid-state, and more recently R&D of opto-microwave integrated circuits.
University College London (UCL) was possibly the founder, in 1945, of microwave engineering as a recognised UK&RI academic discipline; it played a leading role in the study of millimetric waveguide as a long distance communication medium. Since then, many universities established microwave activities including: University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) merged with the Victoria University of Manchester to form the University of Manchester in 2004.
From the 1970s it has provided support and now has become internationally recognised for its work on ferrite non-reciprocal devices. University of Leeds initiated work on microwaves in 1963, formed the Microwave Solid State Group in the mid-1970s and the current Institute of Microwaves and Photonics in 1997.
Other Universities include: Queen Mary & Westfield College (QMW) - antennas; University College Dublin (UCD) - nonlinear device modelling; University of Cork - millimetre-wave devices with spin off by Farran Technologies; Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) - silicon technology for microwave and millimetre-wave devices; King’s College London - heterojunction microwave and opto-electronic devices; University of York - low noise solid-state oscillators; University of Sheffield - early microwave semiconductor interests, e.g. TEDs.
Marconi carried out his investigations into microwave frequencies from 1919 to 1931 with his first radio transmission experiments at microwave frequencies over the Tigullio Gulf on the Riviera Ligure taking place in 1931. The following year he realized the first ground link between Villa Mondragone (near Rome) and the Vatican.
Also at this time, the first theoretical studies on microwave propagation and the first experiments on the devices for microwave generation and detection took place. The term ‘microwaves’ was introduced by Nello Carrara while he was working at the Royal Electronic and Communication Institute (RIEC) of the Italian Navy at Livorno. The Institute, which was founded in 1916, hosted the first Italian research group in electronics and is where Italian microwave and radar techniques originated. An important role was played by U. Tiberio, who has been credited as one of the inventors of radar.
GaAs microwave technology in Italy started at CISE, Milan, in the late 1970s, where a MESFET process was first established. In 1980, the same group manufactured the first X-band coplanar monolithic GaAs balanced amplifier. The activity on GaAs continued at TELETTRA, where the first air-bridge gate FET technology for GaAs MMICs was developed in 1985. In 1990 the company, owned by FIAT, was acquired by Alcatel, now Alcatel-Lucent (2006).
Initially, microwave industrial activities in Italy were driven mainly by military needs, related to radar and electronic warfare applications with Selenia and Elettronica in Rome being leading players in this field. However, with the relative decline of the military market, microwave industrial activity was redirected toward civil applications, particularly communication services and space.
The largest Italian industries in the RF and microwave area are owned totally or partially by the Finmeccanica Group, a state-owned holding working in the field of aeronautics, space, energy and defence electronics, the last being developed within the SELEX family.
SELEX-Sistemi Integrati (founded in the early 1950s as Microlambda, later evolved into Selenia, then Alenia, later Alenia Marconi Systems) is mainly focused on the production of radars for both military and civil systems. Products range from microwave antennas to solid-state devices, tube transmitters, microwave components, and packaging from 1 to 100 GHz.
SELEX Communications is a supplier of advanced communication, navigation and identification systems operating in the areas of professional communications, avionics, military and space.
Thales Alenia Space-Italy, originally born out of Selenia, then an independent company with the name of Alenia Spazio, merged with Alcatel under the name of Alcatel Alenia Space. It is one of the leading space communication companies, with RF and microwave technologies as one of its major assets. Specializing in telecommunications, remote sensing, scientific satellites, and space infrastructures, the company pioneered Ka-band communication with on-board processing, and from the early 1970s became a leader in microwave technologies for space applications. STMicroelectronics is one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies. It was created in 1987 by the merger of SGS Microelettronica of Italy and Thomson Semiconducteurs of France. Currently, ST has a worldwide network of front-end (wafer fabrication) and back-end (assembly, packaging and test) plants. The company’s principal wafer fabs are located in Italy in Agrate Brianza and Catania. Other main plants are located in Crolles, Rousset and Tours (France), Phoenix and Carrollton (US) and Singapore.
The explosion of the wireless market is also reflected in the activities of some industries owned by foreign companies, such as Ericsson. Ericsson Laboratory Italy develops equipment and systems for fixed and mobile networks.
Until the early 1970s, four major research centres operated in Italy—at the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, at the University of Naples, at the Polytechnic Institute of Turin, and at the Research Institute of Electromagnetic Waves (IROE), formerly Centro Microonde, in Florence. Since then, the number of university laboratories involved in microwave research activities has increased significantly, now being about 40.
Italian researchers in the field of electromagnetics, mostly from academia, but also from industry and public research centres, formed the National Group on Electromagnetics (GEm) with the scope of co-ordinating their activities at a national level. Originally created in the framework of the National Research Council, the group formed SIEm, the Italian Electromagnetic Society, in 2002, grouping all university centres active in this area and containing about 200 members.
Inter-university research consortia have also been formed to coordinate research activities in specific domains, such as: MECSA (microwave space activities) and ICEMB (electromagnetic-biological interactions). Many microwave activities have been sponsored by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), in the framework of national, European and international programmes.
France/R. Quéré and G. Salmer
The dramatic growth of RF and microwave applications in the telecommunications and radar domain has pushed continuous advances in research, development and education during the last 50 years in France. Similarly, research fields have evolved considerably due to the evolution of relevant technologies, starting from solutions of Maxwell equations in waveguides to the 3D electromagnetic analysis of passive and active circuits and antennas. In the active circuit domain, the transition from microwave tubes to solid state devices has driven important research efforts on new transistor technologies (FET and HBT) and on GaAs and InP for low noise, power generation and high bit rate communications.
Recently efforts have been focussed on the development of GaN technology through several national and European collaborative programmes such as KORRIGAN funded by seven European MoDs. European and National Space Agencies are also pursuing extensive programmes with wide band gap technologies. The growth of Silicon-based microwave and RF technologies (SiGe and CMOS) with two major players in France—STMicroelectronics and NXP— is also worth mentioning.
In the ‘70s, the French microwave community became structured under the auspices of various national research organizations like the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the Centre National d’Etudes des Télécommunications (CNET), with the support from several ministries and national organizations in a national network of microwave research centres.
In terms of research, all areas of microwave technology are presently covered. In order to reach critical mass, the creation of large laboratories grouping more than 100 permanent researchers has been encouraged; Alcatel-Thales 3-5 Labs, Thales Research and Technology (TRT), NXP, STMicro, Thales Alenia Space for industry, and IEMN (Lille), XLIM (Limoges), LAAS (Toulouse), IMEP (Grenoble), IMS (Bordeaux), LabSTICC (Brest), IETR (Rennes) and FEMTO (Besançon) for academia.
Specific facilities for microwave measurements are available in all these laboratories, while TRT/3-5 Labs, NXP, IEMN and LAAS also possess device-processing facilities. Several cooperative research initiatives on microwave telecommunication systems were developed within the framework of the National Research Network on Telecommunications in the period from 1996 to 2006.
Nowadays cooperation between academic and industrial laboratories is being encouraged in French National Research Agency (ANR) programmes, which began its activities in 2007. Moreover the recently created competitive clusters facilitate academic and industrial research and development with strong involvement from SMEs. Although microwave activities are involved in a number of these clusters, only SYSTEM@TIC in Ile de France and ELOPSYS in Limousin have a specific microwave activity.
Industrial research centres (TRT, 3-5 Labs, UMS, NXP, Thales Alenia Space, Thales Aerospace-Air Systems-Land and Joint Systems) have mainly focused their activities on microwave devices, antennas, MMICs, millimetre-wave components and microwave subsystems. Cooperation with academic laboratories has often specialized in specific topics (for instance, IEMN on devices processing, simulation, and characterization; XLIM on microwave components and systems modelling and simulation; LAAS on noise; IMS on Silicon devices and reliability, LabSTICC on filtering, etc.), enabling the French research community to achieve state-of-the-art results.
For example: LEP on high-efficiency IMPATT diodes in the 1970s; LEP and Thomson LCR on GaAs monolithic digital circuits in the 1980s; and, then, Alcatel Space in the field of 3-D MCM. More recently significant advances have been made in GaN technology at 3-5 Labs with the realization of power MMICs delivering up to 58 W with up to 36 percent power added efficiency in X-band.
Research covering a large range of microwave topics is advanced within the framework of national or European programmes, particularly the European Networks of Excellence. Three main NoEs have been dedicated to microwaves and RF: AMICOM (Lille, Toulouse, Limoges), which considered RF MEMS, ACE (Rennes, Marne La Vallée, Nice, Brest) dedicated to new antenna technologies and TARGET (Limoges, Toulouse, Lille) related to power amplifiers. Si RF activities are structured within the micro and nano technologies pole MINATEC in Grenoble in cooperation with CEA-Leti Labs and STMicro and in the IMS lab in Bordeaux.
Successful studies have also been performed by academic research groups on microwave radiometry and imagery in Orsay (LSS) and Lille (IEMN), in support of industrial and biomedical applications; and on radar polarimetry and telecommunications systems (Nantes). The French microwave community has played a very significant role in the field of submillimetre-wave devices and components for application to space-borne radiometers (for instance, EADS-ASTRIUM in Toulouse), and to radio astronomy research (DEMIRN, Observatoire de Paris).
In the past, the main microwave telecommunication systems research was undertaken by CNET (in Lannion and Paris); since 1996, CNET first became France Telecom R&D and is now Orange Labs. In the 1980s, they proposed and studied a number of very promising millimetre-wave systems. More recently, the network of telecommunication engineering schools (ENST) has contributed greatly to this sector.
Finally, over more than 15 years, a great deal of research has been undertaken in the field of microwave/optical devices, for applications such as local loops in telecommunication systems and phased-array antennas for radars. Such studies have been performed in cooperation between academic (Lille, Grenoble, etc.) and industrial groups (Alcatel, Thales). Very innovative solutions have been proposed both in terms of specific devices for detection (HBT) and in terms of millimetre-wave systems at 38 and 60 GHz. While the production of base stations for GSM and UMTS constitutes a very important market in the field of microwave telecommunication systems, the most advanced development activities concerns the millimetre-wave range (for instance, at Thales Land and Joint Systems).
In the space domain, Thales Alenia Space and Astrium working in cooperation with ESA and CNES have achieved international recognition, both in CAD and in the technology for space components, specific packages and 3-D assemblies. The emergence of the European Navigation System Galileo, military programmes like SYRACUSE III and long-term research into flexible payload satellites drive the French space microwave industry to a very high technical level. Thales plays a prominent role in microwave research and development and units such as Aerospace, Air Systems, Land and Joint Systems have developed large systems for civil and military applications: Radar, airborne, countermeasure systems, and telecommunications. They have reached a high international level, in terms of technology for passive and active circuits.
Civil applications have also been addressed with the development of front-end modules at 77 GHz for long range cruise control radars and at 24/79 GHz for short-range radars. United Monolithics Semiconductors (UMS)—a joint venture of Thales and EADS—has developed chipsets for such applications. At this stage it should be noted UMS (based in Orsay in France and Ulm in Germany) and OMMIC (based in Limeil-Brevannes, France), independent from the Philips group since 2007, are the only two commercial foundries for III-V MMICs in Europe, offering a wide range of different processes from low noise (0.1 μm PHEMT, MHEMT), high power (HBT, Power PHEMT, GaN HEMT) or mixed analogue-digital (E/D HEMT, HBT).
Germany, Austria and Switzerland/P. Russer
The main microwave activity in Germany relates to public communication, broadcasting, sensing, traffic control and medical treatment, with applications in the commercial, consumer and military sectors. Microwave components, antennas and a variety of microwave systems and measurement equipment are manufactured. Leading players are Bosch, Continental-TEMIC, Daimler, EADS, EPCOS, Infineon, Rohde & Schwarz, Siemens and Spinner. In the 1990s, while the military sector decreased there was increased activity in the mobile communications and broadband optical communications sectors.
However, the last decade saw a decline in many RF and microwave oriented business segments with the communications segment of Siemens disappearing completely and the mobile communications production lines of some companies relocating to countries with low employment costs.
The wireless products business unit of Infineon Technologies is successful, producing semiconductor devices and complete system solutions for a range of wireless applications, including cellular and cordless telephone systems and devices used in connection with GPS. Products include standardized baseband ICs (logic and analogue), power RF and microwave transistors, and standardized and customized radio frequency ICs, including transceiver chip sets for mobile communications applications.
EPCOS emerged from the Siemens Matsushita Components joint venture and ranks as one of the world’s largest manufacturers of passive electronic components. The company pioneered the field of miniaturized and innovative passive components and is playing a key role as a manufacturer of surface and bulk acoustic wave devices. Daimler is a leading car manufacturer and supplier of electronic systems for safety and driving comfort. Micro and millimetre-wave techniques are the prerequisites for their security and safety systems, driver assist systems, and communication and entertainment systems.
The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) is a global company. The EADS Defence & Security Systems Division (comprises the former companies Telefunken, Dornier and MBB) is responsible for the majority of the company’s microwave activities in the fields of radar, electronic warfare, navigation and communications for military and civil applications. These systems and related equipment are supported by UMS, a global semiconductor supplier and foundry.
Robert Bosch is a global supplier of technologies and services in the areas of automotive and industrial technology. Microwave technology is a key for their automotive electronics, driver assist systems, traffic monitoring and control systems, and car multimedia.
Rohde & Schwarz is a major supplier of radio communications, radio location, and broadcast equipment, and a manufacturer of test and measurement equipment.
Spinner is a manufacturer of passive microwave components, including waveguide components, coaxial connectors, cable assemblies, coaxial waveguide switches and optical waveguide components. The company also manufactures broadband optical transmission systems.
At German universities microwaves are mainly covered under High Frequency Engineering (Hochfrequenztechnik) within electrical engineering departments. The Fakultätentag für Elektrotechnik und Informationstechnik (FTEI), the Electrical Engineering and Information Technology Faculties assembly is a confederation of electrical engineering departments of German universities. The FTEI has the objective to achieve and maintain fundamental topics of education, research and academic self-administration.
There are 29 universities with electrical engineering departments with high frequency engineering or microwave engineering departments represented in the FTEI. Representatives of the electrical engineering departments of the Austrian universities Graz, Leoben, Linz, Vienna (Technische Universität Wien), and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich are invited to the annual general meetings of the FTEI.Government
In Germany the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF), the Federal Ministry for Education and Research, funds research projects at industry, research institutes and universities. The current priority programmes dealing with microwave topics are Mobile Communication Systems, Innovative Optical Communication Networks and New Areas of Technology, with the DFG being the central organization for supporting such projects.
A number of research institutes carry out microwave research. Major contributors are the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid-State Physics (IAF) in Freiburg, the Ferdinand Braun Institute (FBH) and the Heinrich Hertz Institute, both in Berlin, the Institute for Semiconductor Physics (IHP) in Frankfurt/Oder and the Institute for Mobile Communications and Satellite Technology (IMST) in Kamp-Lintfort.The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) as the national space flight agency manages German space programmes. The DLR Institute of Communications and Navigation pursues satellite communications, aeronautic communications, terrestrial radio systems, satellite navigation and traffic guidance systems.
The FGAN Research Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques (FHR) develops concepts, methods and systems for electromagnetic sensors, particularly in the field of radar and radiometry, together with innovative signal processing methods and innovative technology from the microwave to the lower Terahertz region.
The Netherlands/L.P. Ligthart
Key players active in microwave theory and techniques are the Delft University of Technology (DUT), Eindhoven University of Technology (EUT), ESA-ESTEC, Applied Physics Research Organization TNO, NLR, Thales-Nederland, Dutch Space, CHL Netherlands, HITT, MESA at University Twente, WMC Institute, Philips, KPN and The Netherlands branches of large foreign telecom companies.
The International Research Centre for Telecommunications and Radar (IRCTR) of DUT focuses on the development of advanced RF front-ends (including antennas) for integration into novel microwave and millimetre-wave radar and radio systems and networks. Specific technologies and systems have been developed for ultra-wideband (UWB) array radar in various security related applications; breakthroughs are expected in Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), Through-Wall Radar and Through-Dress Radar. Also, Doppler-polarimetric radar research has resulted in new developments in hybrid multi-beam antenna systems and new transmit/receive technologies allowing for simultaneous determination of all polarization characteristics of objects and media.
The Delft Institute of Micro-Electronics and Submicron Technologies (DIMES) has a specific microwave programme related to silicon-based UWB and cm/mm-wave radio system parts with realization of on-chip devices, and integration of MEMS circuitries using bipolar, CMOS, and BiCMOS technologies. EUT is involved in 60 GHz radio technologies for indoor communications and fibre to the home networks.
ESA-ESTEC is active in all areas of microwave circuits, devices and systems related to space applications, while NLR and Dutch Space are working in related areas. The Electro-Magnetic Division of ESA-ESTEC works closely in cooperation with IRCTR on antenna/front-end design and device diagnostics validated by UWB frequency and time-domain measurement techniques.
TNO has extensive programmes investigating MMIC design in various frequency bands for radar and telecommunications. Also noteworthy is that Thales-Nederland is developing highly integrated transmit/receive sub-systems in various radar bands as part of strategic modules in advanced phased-array radar. Finland/Antti Raisanen
In 1924 the first professor of radio engineering was installed at the Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and the Radio Laboratory established. Microwaves with regards to their applications to radar and radio links were first researched and taught in the 1940s; increasing in the 1950s, with the first thesis on a mobile radio appearing in 1949. In the 1960s, microwave techniques were often studied in connection with radio astronomy and, in the 1970s millimetre-waves were first applied. That decade also saw increased interest in the study of microwave sensors for industrial processes and microwave remote sensing.
The last 30 years have seen the evolution of radio communications. Today, a Finnish enterprise, Nokia, produces some 40 percent of mobile phones sold in global markets, which is a major contributor to the fact that currently the electronics and communications industry produces over 30 percent of Finnish exports.
Strong domestic industry has certainly been reflected in the education of microwave techniques, antennas and propagation. At TKK, microwave techniques and related topics such as electromagnetics, antennas and propagation, RF circuit design, circuit theory, microwave remote sensing, and radio communications are studied and taught, mainly at the Department of Radio Science and Engineering. The University of Oulu and the Tampere University of Technology also have research and teaching activities in these fields.
In 1995, TKK and VTT (the governmental research centre) established a joint research institute for millimetre-wave techniques, the Millimetre-Wave Laboratory of Finland—MilliLab, which has the status of a European Space Agency (ESA) External Laboratory.
Current microwave research activities are directed towards smart/adaptive radios and antennas, direct conversion receivers for WCDMA, improved models of RF components and circuits, radio channel modelling for future mobile radio systems, submillimetre-wave antenna measurements with holograms and synthetic aperture radiometry.
Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Baltic Countries/J. Modelski
Polish microwave engineering activities date back to the late 1940s with the advent of the first Polish microwave tube; a pulse magnetron model M2 (600 MHz, 300 kW/imp), developed by the Telecommunications Research Institute (PIT) in collaboration with the Warsaw University of Technology (WUT). The manufacture of microwave tubes spread into the UNITRA establishments, OBREP and Lamina, from where new types of magnetrons, klystrons and TWTs emerged. At the same time, a radar technology unit was established at PIT, which developed its first NYSA radar. The 1960s and 1970s were very productive. Several enterprises undertook microwave materials research and, subsequently, their production including the Institute of Electronic Materials (ITME), Polfer and the Institute of Electronic Technology (CEMI).
Microwave developments in Po-land have been based on national research, with institutes supported by academia, mainly by the microwave departments within four universities: WUT, Technical University of Gdansk, Wroclaw University of Technology and Military University of Technology.
Unfortunately, the status of microwave research and industry in Poland has been heavily influenced by changes in the economy of the region, which led to many industrial establishments being closed down during the 1980s and 1990s. Similarly, governmental financing of research and education has been reduced significantly. Faced with the choice between a change of profession and a change of country, many Polish microwave researchers emigrated and now live and work abroad.
Today, though, PIT has the largest group of microwave and radar engineers in the country. It specializes in radar technology, and has gained international esteem for its radiolocation systems. Radwar continues the development and manufacture of civil radars. OBREP and Lamina produce amplitrons, reflex klystrons, gas-filled TR-tubes, and TWTs, while the latter is also working on new pulse tubes and BWTs.
With regards to microwave materials, ITME remains active and visible on the international arena, exporting silicon, GaAs and InP wafers, and epitaxial structures. It is also involved with optoelectronic and microwave devices and sensors. New private companies are being established, and some have already introduced their products onto the international market. Vector (Gdynia) manufactures cable television devices and telecommunication systems, Transbit (Warsaw) and Telemobile (Gdynia) microwave devices (filters, antennas) and digital communication systems and QWED (Warsaw) electromagnetic simulations software.
Czech Republic and Slovakia
The Czech Republic and Slovakia have experienced similar political and social-economic repercussions to Poland except that fewer workers emigrated. Until the upheaval of the 1980s, microwave technology in the former Czechoslovakia was relatively high. A key manufacturer of microwave equipment was TESLA, a brand name for radars operating from 10 cm to less than 3 cm, which also produced point-to-point radio links and nearly all associated components. The Czech Republic has been quite successful in developing passive radar technology (Ramona, Tamara). Microwave systems were produced in southern Moravia (Let Kunovice). The Research Institute for Telecommunications developed and produced semiconductor diodes and transistors and the three Technical Universities of Prague, Brno, and Bratislava, the Military Academy, and the Institute of Radioelectronics of the Academy of Science provided background scientific support.
Since 1989 there has been a decline in the Czech Republic. Activity in the field of microwave technology has dropped and the market has been reduced by about a half. However, Prague, Pardubice and Kunovice, where the former large companies originally prospered, have become host to several new SMEs. For example, ERA makes passive surveillance systems, VERA and RAMET C.H.M. make police radars, Ramer and ALCOMA produce communication systems, and Retia makes special radar subsystems and C3I systems.
Slovakia is a different story as microwave production has virtually disappeared and while the three technical universities continue, research institutes have practically disappeared.
Since gaining independence the former Baltic Republics of the USSR have witnessed vast economical changes. In the USSR, some of the major RF and microwave enterprises were concentrated in Lithuania including the Vilnius Research Institute of Radio-Measuring Devices and a similar research institute, but with smaller scale microwave activities in Kaunas. After the collapse of the USSR both research institutes were liquidated and a number of private companies were established in their place. They are engaged in applied research: Elmika on passive devices and microwave measuring instruments; Geozondas on microwave measuring equipment for antennas and radars; Hybridas on thick-film substrates and hybrid circuits; and Keturpolis on panoramic-parameters measurement systems.
Marconi is universally recognized as being the first to demonstrate the practical application of electromagnetic waves. However, the year before Marconi’s patent application, Alexander Popov demonstrated a wireless receiver consisting of a metal ‘coherer’—a device that detects electromagnetic waves—an antenna, a relay, and a bell to signal the presence of these waves. Although not initially intended as a means of transmitting information, Popov’s device proved that radio communication was feasible.
More recently Zhores Alferov, together with Herbert Kroemer, received the 2000 Nobel Prize for Physics, “for developing semiconductor heterostructures used in high-speed electronics and optoelectronics.” He effectively invented the heterotransistor.
Some years ago the Government of Russia developed a strategy for utilising the production of high technology equipment and systems (specifically microwave information and communication technology) for military and civil purposes. As a result some specialized federal corporations were founded, with many active in microwave R&D. Phazotron—NIIR Corp. is a leader in the development and production of radars and radar weapon and defence control systems. Modern airborne radars produced by the corporation are multifunctional, quasi-continuous, pulse-Doppler, multimode systems.
The Joint-Stock Co., the ‘Almaz-Antey’ Industrial Concern, is one of the largest Russian military-industrial organisations specializing in the development, manufacture and export of high-technology products for military and non-military applications. It incorporates seventeen manufacturing enterprises, design bureaus and scientific research institutes located in different regions of Russia.
Also, the Scientific-Research Institute of Instrument Design (SRIID) is one of Russia’s leading scientific-research institutions dedicated to the development of mobile medium range air defence missile systems and aircraft weapon control systems.
Radiotechnical and Informational Systems is a research association, which includes large defence and industry organisations including the Institute of Radio Engineering n.a. Academician Mints A.L., JSC, Scientific Research Institute of Telecommunication, Research and Production Complex, JSC. It oversees work on the development of information systems for ground-based missile defence, the organization of technical maintenance of operating systems for missile attack warning, outer space control and antimissile defence.
The Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) is a self-governing non-commercial government organization whose main goal is to provide support and assistance to research work in all areas of fundamental science on a competitive basis.
Since 2004, it has been competitively targeting fundamental research aimed at selecting and funding those projects aimed at the development of break-through technologies and new materials in priority areas. Also, the Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics (IRE) of the Russian Academy of Sciences carries out fundamental research. Some of its microwave R&D activities include: EM wave propagation in complicated media and structures; EM scattering by complex objects; new types of waveguides and waveguide elements; and antennas for DBS, communications and radars (ranging from 0.5 to 150 GHz).
While focusing on individual countries offers an insight into their respective achievements and activities, it does not give an overall picture of the vital contribution that Europe as a whole has made to the microwave technologies that have defined the 20th century and will shape the 21st.
The continent plays a key role in all sectors including industrial, biomedical, military aerospace and emerging wireless technologies. Since there is such a broad range of sectors, in Part II we will only focus on the technological development in Europe of two sectors: satellite communications from the launch of Sputnik and microwave radar.
The author would like to thank all of the European Microwave Association contributors for their time and effort and for sharing their knowledge and expertise.
1. R. Sorrentino, T. Oxley, G. Salmer, et al., Microwaves in Europe IEEE Trans. Microwave Th. and Tech., Special Issue, Vol. 50, No. 3, March 2002, pp. 1056