Mike Hill, Technical Director at Skyworks
As connectivity becomes more and more embedded in our everyday lives, 5G is set to pave the way for global digitalization. Ceramics will play a critical role this evolving market, providing exciting advancements and opportunities for the industry.
Mike Hill, who’s company Skyworks is at the forefront of 5G innovation, spoke with us about how he foresees current and upcoming applications of ceramics developing in the near future.
Could you tell me a little bit more about your role as Director of R&D at Skyworks?
In my role at Skyworks, I lead the R&D effort for new ceramic products for Skyworks. Although a large part of this is formulating new materials to serve our customers, this often involves working with the process engineering team to improve products and processes, working with the sales team and the customers to determine which solutions that Skyworks can potentially supply will best meet their needs.
What role do you think that Skyworks is playing in the 5G revolution?
Skyworks is playing a large role in the 5G revolution and ceramics is certainly part of it. Much of the effort is in developing semiconductor modules for handsets including amplifiers and filters. Skyworks products are part of the entire 5G spectrum of products from the handsets to base stations.
Are there any industries or markets that you believe 5G will particularly transform or benefit from this new technology?
In addition to better wireless telephony, high latency and faster data rates for wireless communication, 5G technology will transform the automotive industry by enabling self-driving cars. It will have a similar effect in the medical sphere, allowing for remote surgery. With the Internet of Things, it will allow for increased remote control of everything from manufacturing operations to smart homes.
5G technology will transform the automotive industry… the medical sphere… [and] everything from manufacturing operations to smart homes.
Should the ceramics industry be paying attention towards 5G applications? Why?
Ceramics will play a critical role in many enabling technologies for 5G systems. For example, ceramic materials are used in acoustic wave filters such as SAW and BAW filters as piezoelectric elements or as temperature compensating materials (silica glass). Aluminum nitride and aluminium oxide are ceramic materials which are often used as substrates or passivation layers for semi-conductors. Circulators rely on insulating magnetic materials such as polycrystalline yttrium iron garnet and base station filters make heavy use of oxide-based microwave dielectric ceramics. In addition, ceramics may be used as substrates such as low-firing LTCC materials or as antennas such as cordierite or forsterite. In short, I expect heavy use of ceramic materials for 5G systems, both in base stations and in handsets.
Ceramics will play a critical role in many enabling technologies for 5G systems.
What is currently the greatest challenge in establishing a fully-fledged 5G infrastructure?
Currently 5G is set up with two distinct operating frequency bands, a 3-6 GHz band and a mm wave band (> 20 GHz). The technology for the 3-6 GHz band infrastructure, although full of engineering challenges, is closer to that of 4G technology than the technology which can potentially be used in the mm-wave band. The mm wave signal does not travel as far as that of lower frequency band and many of the technology elements for mm-wave base stations have yet to be determined. To my thinking, the incorporation of the infrastructure elements using the mm-wave band is the greatest challenge in establishing 5G infrastructure.
Finally, if you were sent to live on a deserted island for a month, what one item would you take with you and why?
Depends on what is on the deserted island. If there is access to food, potable water, shelter and bedding and a sure way off the island in a month, then perhaps a good long book which I have never found the time to read.
Exploring this topic in greater detail, Mike will be speaking on a panel session at this year’s Ceramics Expo conference where he will provide critical insights into new technologies and the role of ceramics in 5G, alongside other industry experts.
Join us at Ceramics Expo 2021, on August 31st-September 1st in Cleveland, OH where we will be discussing this subject, and many more topics at the forefront of the industry. Experts from leading companies including Kyocera, Morgan Advanced Materials, Northrop Grumman, Skyworks, Lithoz and many more will also be speaking at the event, so make sure not to miss it!