Researchers have found a low-cost way for backscatter radios to support high-throughput communication and 5G-speed Gb/sec data transfer using a single transistor. Employing a unique modulation approach in the 5G 24/28 Gigahertz (GHz) bandwidth, the researchers have shown that these passive devices can transfer data safely and robustly from virtually any environment. The findings were reported earlier this month in the journal Nature Electronics. “Typically, it was simplicity against cost. You could either do very simple things with one transistor or you need multiple transistors for more complex features, which made these systems very expensive,” said Emmanouil Tentzeris, Ken Byers Professor in Flexible Electronics in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Now we’ve enhanced the complexity, making it very powerful but very low cost, so we’re getting the best of both worlds.” The technology opens up a host of IoT (Internet of things) 5G applications, including energy harvesting, which Georgia Tech researchers recently demonstrated using a specialized Rotman lens that collects 5G electromagnetic energy from all directions. Tentzeris said additional applications for the backscatter technology could include “rugged” high-speed personal area networks with zero-power wearable/implantable sensors for monitoring oxygen or glucose levels in the blood or cardiac/EEG functions; smart home sensors that monitor temperature, chemicals, gases, and humidity; and smart agricultural applications for detecting frost on crops, analysing soil nutrients, or livestock tracking.