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$25 million SpectrumX program researches radio waves

| Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Spectrum refers to the radio frequencies that wireless signals travel over, and humans utilize these frequencies in all aspects of their daily lives: sending a text message, watching television or using the GPS in a car. Radiofrequency spectrum is a vital resource that is in high demand, and Notre Dame is a leading university in the new SpectrumX program specializing in the research.

Courtesy of Nicholas Laneman
Faculty and students in the Wireless Institute laboratory discussing a radio receiver design. From left to right: Professor Bertrand Hochwald, undergraduate researcher Nathan Jensen from BYU, graduate student Xiwen Kang, Prof. Jonathan Chisum and undergraduate researcher John Morris from Purdue.

According to spectrum.org, SpectrumX was initiated through a five-year $25 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, and the program is composed of 41 researchers and staff members from 27 universities. The official launch date for the program is Oct. 1.

Notre Dame electrical engineering professor Nicholas Laneman serves as the director of SpectrumX and co-director of the Wireless Institute in the College of Engineering.

Laneman emphasized the importance of studying spectrum as radio spectrum is used for many different applications including communication, like cellular systems and Wi-Fi, scientific uses, such as weather forecasting, radio astronomy and earth science, as well as military and public safety purposes. 

“There are a lot of different devices using spectrum and competing for spectrum. We’re starting to have more and more struggles meeting these demands,” Laneman said. 

Many different applications depend on the natural resource that is spectrum, so the goal of SpectrumX is “to develop new policies and technologies for better organization, management and more efficient usage of the spectrum,” said Xiwen Kang, a Ph.D. student in the Wireless Institute. 

Kang explained that he is interested in his work with SpectrumX due to its impact on everyday life.

“I am interested in studying and researching wireless communication because these works are not just intellectually challenging, but they are impactful to our lives,” Kang said. “The advancement of wireless technology in both the commercial as well as the defense industry has changed our daily lives in a very remarkable way.”

“We have a national and global competitiveness challenge because we are fragmented in the way we manage spectrum and the way these different applications compete for spectrum. We need to come together as a nation to compete globally. By working together, between the defense sector and the commercial sector, we have new opportunities to enhance connectivity, enhance learning and provide more equity within our community,” Laneman said.  

SpectrumX is characterized as “a multitude of relationships across industry, government, and academia” that brings together experts from many different disciplines including engineers, computer scientists, economists and political scientists, according to its website.

The ultimate goal of SpectrumX is to transform the way radio spectrum is managed to make it more accessible while educating students, expanding public awareness and ensuring the program’s success in the future. Not only will SpectrumX focus on collaboration across sectors, but Laneman said the program will also “conduct interdisciplinary research and educate students [through] curriculum development to prepare the next generation of the workforce to tackle some of these challenging problems.”

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