Scientists Accelerate Production Turnaround of 6G-Enabler

July 30, 2021

Written by Caio Castro
Moscow State University

The development of new technologies is only possible due to contributions from several fields, and the same applies to the journey 6G has set out on. Researchers at the Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology have come up with a solution to speed up the production of epsilon iron oxide.

Epsilon iron oxide is a substance used for various purposes, but among its properties, it can serve as a medium for magnetic recording. Because of its outstanding ferromagnetic resonance, the epsilon iron oxide is highly magnetic and able to absorb electromagnetic radiation. These attributes can pave the way for enabling 6G communications, according to Evgeny Gorbachev, Ph.D. Student at the Lomonosov Moscow State University and one of the authors of the study.

“Epsilon iron oxide can absorb radiation from 160 to 180 GHz [a potential 6G frequency band],” said Gorbachev in an interview with 6GWorld. Even though he says he is no engineer, the scientist shares his vision of how this substance could be used in the future in the 6G context.

“If we could create epsilon iron oxide in the form of a functional material, like film or ceramic, and give these materials a certain shape, we could create, for example, a circulator. It could be used to transmit a signal and absorb signal as well,” he explained.

However, there are challenges to overcome before this substance hits industries on a large scale. While other oxides are abundant on Earth, epsilon iron is scarce, and it only turns stable in the form of nanoparticles. These characteristics are some of the reasons why it takes, according to Gorbachev, an average of a month to produce any amount the oxide.

The researchers’ most significant achievement in this study has been cutting the production time to roughly two hours. “The challenge was to optimise the production of what we could call the silicon dioxide ‘sponge’,” Gorbachev said. “To produce epsilon iron oxide, you have to insert some iron inside the pores.”

He explains that iron (III) nitrate, a chemical precursor, turns into epsilon iron oxide via thermal decomposition within the silicon matrix.

According to the study, the novel approach increases the hydrolysis rate – a chemical reaction. The researchers found that the oxide’s magnetic properties did not change and were able to substantially reduce the time of production.

Next Steps Towards 6G

Now that Evgeny Gorbachev and his team have come up with this alternative solution, what prevents us from using their technique to enable 6G? Can we take advantage of the innovative approach and start manufacturing components?

According to Gorbachev, not so fast.

“We see two directions for this project,” he explains. “The first one is learning how to make the functional material [a circulator, for example] based on the epsilon iron oxide. And the second, we want to know how to get the epsilon iron oxide by fusing the most available oxides on Earth, silicon dioxide and iron oxide.” Until then, researchers and scientists will keep pushing the boundaries, oxide by oxide.

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