Millimeter waves for cars, people, cells, and molecules

For autonomous driving, millimeter wave radar sensing is clearly here to stay, with still much progress to be expected in terms of system performance, cost, system miniaturization, and so on. New modulation schemes, higher frequencies and new radar concepts will continue to drive innovation in this area. Apart from autonomous driving, novel millimeter wave sensing applications are on the horizon, especially as frequencies go up and system size, cost and power consumption go down. Most notably, the ability of radars to detect small and relatively slow movements (heartbeat, respiration rate) opens up a range of applications, from driver and passenger monitoring to applications in the biomedical field, where radars could e.g. be used for patient monitoring. Reaching into the biology itself, applications are even emerging for the characterization or imaging of biological tissue. cell cultures and single cells (personalized diagnostics, drug discovery, advanced surgical tools). At imec and the KU Leuven, many of these applications are under investigation, both at the IC level (79 and 140 GHz CMOS SoC’s), at the system top level (sensor fusion, person detection and monitoring) and even at the level of the biophysical interactions between millimeter wave electromagnetic fields and biological matter, investigated by microfluidics based millimeter wave metrology. In this talk, an overview will be given of the different activities ongoing in both institutes.