Researchers have found a way to use metamaterials, which are materials engineered for exotic properties, in fractal antennas.

Often, researchers have used metamaterials to test theoretical concepts such as invisibility cloaks. Most of the time such applications are far int the future, if they are practical at all. But researchers from Fractal Antenna Systems, in Waltham, Mass., have shown, in a recently released video, how metamaterials can enhance the capabilities of a fractal antenna.

Some people need to be convinced that metamaterials and fractals are useful tools in the electronic toolbox. We feel the same way, and are happy to oblige with this educational video. It makes an overwhelming case for the fractal advantage, in this case with a specific and fascinating metamaterial application, said Fractal Antenna Systems chief executive officer Nathan Cohen, in a statement.

Fractals are structures built up from repeating a simple shape to make a larger, complex surface or line. Fractal Antenna Systems designs patented antennas using the fractal geometric approach. The company says the uniquely designed antennas are used in everything from electronic warfare techniques to radio-frequency identification signaling.

The Fractal researchers were able to demonstrate how a fractal metamaterial sleeve, with no power or electrical connection to the actual antenna, dramatically increased the antenna's bandwidth and gain. In fact, Fractal says the metamaterial collar/sleeve was able to increase the gain by 3 dB and triple the bandwidth -- sometimes more than that. In one result, at times, it actually increased the bandwidth over 12 times, going from 120 MHz to 1500 MHz.

What is exciting for us is that fractals enable this technology, and as the inventors and patent holders, we are the innovators bringing it to our products and designs, and are happy to show this example to help others understand the benefits, Cohen said.

The company said it will continue research in this field and come out with a second demonstration in December.