Radar system smaller than a fingernail

Weinheim, November 26, 2013. Yesterday, Dr. Stefan Beer received the Carl Freudenberg Prize, awarded every two years, at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). The jury chaired by Prof. Albert Albers, Chairman of the Institute of Product Development of KIT, honored the scientist’s work in radar technology. Beer said: “This is a great honor for me and confirmation that the hard work and time I have invested in this project have been worthwhile.” The 30-year-old worked on a project with European Union support for about three years together with a team consisting of nine partners, including KIT. Thanks to this solution, it will be possible to reduce existing radar systems to a miniature format in the future.

When asked about potential areas of application, Beer mentions a number of possibilities. “Let us take distance sensors in mid-range and luxury vehicles. Thanks to the chip we have developed, it is possible to measure distances between 50 cm and 15 m from the vehicle ahead. This allows a vehicle to brake in good time if it gets too close to the vehicle ahead.” What is the benefit compared with existing alternatives? The chip only has a size of 8 x 8 mm. “It is smaller than a fingernail. The argument that this chip is very small and cheap to produce opens up entirely new markets,” Beer explains. For example, the new development would allow the parking assistance systems installed on cars, currently based on ultrasound systems, to be replaced in the long term. The new systems would no longer be visible on the fender but would be concealed in this component. Beer also believes that low-cost mass production would be feasible. This would mean that even small cars could be equipped with radar sensors.

For the 30-year-old, applications in the consumer goods industry are just as promising. The new technology could be implemented in products as diverse as electrical equipment and tools. Dolls could walk independently and avoid obstacles in children’s rooms thanks to a mini-chip. The scientist sees other applications in drills which could be equipped with smarter features thanks to low-cost production. Using a distance measurement system, the drill could be set to penetrate a wall to a specific depth and then stop automatically. There is almost no limit to the list of potential applications, which reflects one of the basic principles of the Carl Prize. The “potential for industrial use” convinced the jury.

The Carl Freudenberg Prize has been awarded since 1951 but was based on a new concept this year. The prize was given greater reference to the venue where it was announced (KIT Center for Mobility Systems). The prize money was increased from €5000 to €10,000 and the number of prize-winners was raised to 3. In addition, the award ceremony was combined with the Carl Benz Memorial Lecture at KIT for the first time. Beer does not yet know what he intends to do with the prize money. “Perhaps I’ll just take a vacation trip with my wife and our two children.”

2013 prize-winners
• First place: Dr.-Ing. Stefan Beer: Methods and technologies for the integration of 122 GHz antennas in miniaturized radar sensors
• Second place: Dr.-Ing. Stefanie Grollius: Analysis of the coupled tire, cavity, wheel and wheel suspension system in the rolling condition and development of a rolling noise model
• Third place: Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Robens: An operation system for scaling the indoor pass-by measurement with a microphone array for an efficient validation in small semi-anechoic chambers in the vehicle development process.

The Carl Freudenberg Prize
The Carl Freudenberg Prize, which includes a cash award of 10,000 euros, is intended to support young scientists at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. It is awarded every two years for the best scientific and technical work. Prizewinners are selected on the basic of scientific excellence and potential industrial use by an interdisciplinary committee of KIT. The prize has been awarded since 1951 and was established by the Freudenberg Group in 1949 on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. It is named after Friedrich Carl Freudenberg (1848-1942), who studied at the Polytechnic Institute, later Karlsruhe University and now Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and is part of the commitment of the Freudenberg Group to the region around its headquarters in Weinheim.