College of Engineering University of Wisconsin-Madison
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ECE NEWS :The Electrical & Computer Engineering Department Newsletter


Year in Review 2009-2010

Featured Articles

BRIGHT IDEAS: Undergrad competition showcases ECE student ideas and inventions

BRIGHT IDEAS: Recycled electrification system will light up developing nations

New semiconductor laser structure

Nam Sung Kim

Katherine Compton

Focus on New Faculty:
Nader Behdad

Focus on Alumni:
Meet the ECE Visiting Advisory Board

Dean Foate receives Distinguised Acheivement Award

Andrew Hanson:
Transferring entrepreneurship from classroom to company

Michael Splinter: Blending engineering, business and social responsibility

In Memoriam

Regular Features

Message from the chair

Department News

Student News




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Nader Behdad

Nader Behdad

Decorative initial cap When Assistant Professor Nader Behdad looks at a small antenna, crickets and flies sometimes come to mind. For the expert in applied electro-magnetics, insects offer a humbling reminder that, despite the best efforts of scientists in the last 100 years, mankind’s best sensors are still not as sensitive as the senses of a bug.


This reminder serves as an inspiration for Behdad, who is studying innovative approaches for developing new electromagnetic technologies, including small and efficient super-resolving antennas. Conventional approaches dictate that efficient antennas are sized in proportion to the wavelengths they are designed to detect. For example, the wireless LAN system that an iPhone can pick up works at a 2.4-gigahertz frequency, which translates to a wavelength measuring roughly 12.5 centimeters. The optimal antenna to pick up this wavelength would be around half that length, or roughly 6.5 centimeters, to work at optimal efficiency. However, as cell phones and other wireless devices continue to get smaller and smaller, antennas arebecoming so small that their efficiency is being compromised.

Some flies, however, that are only about a centimeter long, can detect the direction of sound within two degrees of accuracy. “To do this with our technology we’d need antennas that are absolutely huge,” explains Behdad, who is considering two research strategies for harnessing nature’s optimal design. “One way is to try to mimic what these organisms are doing and come up with new architectures based on living organisms. The second way is to actually try to develop an ‘evolution lab.’”

This lab would theoretically examine basic cell development and how that development could be altered to produce different outcomes. For example, some organisms, like sharks, are evolved to detect electromagnetic signals produced by certain fish. Perhaps, says Behdad, this ability could be engineered to allow other organisms to not only sense electromagnetic waves, but also transmit them for communication purposes.

Behdad—who joined the ECE faculty in 2008 after earning his PhD from the University of Michigan in 2006 and spending two years as an assistant electrical engineering professor at the University of Central Florida, Orlando—is taking advantage of the collaborative atmosphere at UW-Madison in order to explore these complex ideas. He is investigating various biomedical applications for antennas, including a partnership with Professor Susan Hagness to study how antennas could be used in micro-systems for breast cancer detection. He is also brainstorming possibilities for the evolution lab with biologists on campus.

“Who knows if it could work? That’s the problem—not knowing,” he says. “The question is where to start, and there’s no shortage of expertise here. If there’s anything you want to know, there is someone in town who knows.”


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Date last modified: Monday,20-December-2010
Date created: 20-December-2010



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