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Past Project in Detail

Microwave & Materials Design - Create a Superconducting Microwave Filter Prototype; and Set-up an R&D Project Management System



Create a Superconducting Microwave Filter Prototype; and Set-Up an R&D Project Management System – Microwave and Materials Designs (2 students – Mechatronics, Master of Engineering Management)

Located at the Australian Microelectronics Centre - Eight Mile Plains, Microwave and Materials Designs (M&MD) have been working with new materials in the microwave area since 1996. The company has produced a number of novel designs for microwave filters for mobile wireless base stations using high temperature superconductors with cryogenic cooling.

The wireless telecommunications industry worldwide is large and rapidly expanding. The key resource of telecommunication companies and the primary source of their profits is their allocated microwave frequencies and bandwidth in the geographical locations in which they provide mobile services. Naturally, telecommunication companies are vitally interested in the effective utilisation of this resource. Conventional microwave technologies, in particular conventional microwave filters, do not permit optimal use of bandwidth.

As the demand for mobile wireless telecommunications, particularly 3G, grows in the next few years, the telecommunication companies needing to extract more from their resources will be faced with insoluble problems unless new technology becomes available. That new technology will be provided by microwave filters manufactured with meta materials such as high temperature superconductors, designed for installation in mobile wireless base stations.

Founders and Directors of the company, Else Shepherd and Richard Taylor, approached CEED with a number of projects, all of which require specialist expertise. CEED was able to locate suitable students for three of these projects and the students commenced with M&MD in February/March 05.

Two of the three projects underway are:

1. Mechanical & Thermal Analysis, Prototype Design and Assembly of a Superconducting Microwave Filter (student: Jon Pfeffer, Mechatronics, UQ) – due to complete end-June 05

2. Set-up a Project Management System for a Small Research and Development (R&D) Company (student: Ehecatl Calva Gutierrez, Master of Engineering Management, QUT) – due to complete end-November 05

The main purpose of Ehecatl’s project is to design and implement a Project Management System (PMS) for three different but related R&D projects that the company is currently undertaking. Due to the nature of R&D, these tools must be flexible and easy to adjust, when necessary. In addition to the PMS, he will design and implement a reporting strategy, PERT and Gantt charts for each of the three projects, and a complete and integrated Gantt chart for the company. Lastly, Ehecatl will design and implement a budget reporting strategy and a formal risk management process strategy for the three R&D projects.

By using a formal methodology for developing the above tools, it is guaranteed that every activity needed to accomplish the three projects, will be accounted for. The Gantt charts will help the M&MD team and Program Manager with planning, monitoring and controlling the projects’ activities. Ehecatl will also develop graphics to help the team to visually follow the progress of each project – using a baseline forecast against time to compare with actual results.

As at mid-April, Ehecatl has progressed to the stage where he has become totally familiar with the projects currently being undertaken by M&MD and has developed the work breakdown structure. He has produced Gantt charts for a substantial portion of the work and has designed a method of efficient reporting on project process to the Board of Directors.

Jon’s mechanical and thermal design project forms an important part of the larger project of moving from the prototype stage to a saleable product. For operation, a high temperature superconductor must be mounted in a vacuum chamber and cooled to about –200oC with a cryogenic cooling system. Additional secondary cooling is necessary for the cryogenic cooler.

Jon’s objectives for the design and production of a prototype filter include:

· Have a thermally stable operating environment for the filter

· Design and build a vacuum vessel capable of maintaining an acceptable environment for a minimum of 5 years, unattended

· Package all the components into a professional looking 19” rack-mount case, occupying as little vertical space as possible

The details of how Jon will accomplish this project are confidential. However, M&MD perceive that if this project is successful, the introduction of this new technology will dramatically further the communications industry and permit telecommunications companies to deliver richer content to users. As a result, Queensland and Australia will be recognised as world leaders in this field.

As at mid-April, Jon is currently working on a design for the vacuum vessel. Issues to be resolved are the mounting of the filter in the vacuum vessel, the thermal radiation shield, the total thermal heat loading, and the design of the vacuum vessel.

Photo L to R (back): Richard Taylor and Else Shepherd (Directors of M&MD). Front: Jon Pfeffer and Ehecatl Calva - with a Vector Network Analyser, showing the time domain response of a single filter resonator.

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