Researchers at Cornell University have developed a new type of radio-on-a-chip that could mean cheaper, more flexible wireless systems. Smartphone makers could, for example, use the technology to make a single model of each phone that works anywhere in the world.
Single-chip radios have become a popular choice for communications hardware in the last decade because most characteristics of the radio are determined through software, not discrete hardware components. For this reason, they are often referred to as software-defined radios.
But software can only do so much. In many transceiver devices — ones that transmit and receive — an array of filters is needed to protect the sensitive receiver circuity from signals being transmitted. Those signals can be up to a billion times more powerful that the ones being received, so without the filters, the radio would be overwhelmed and useless.