Dr. Yimin Daniel Zhang, Associate Professor and Director of the Advanced Signal Processing Laboratory, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering, Temple University, together with Dr. Moeness Amin, Professor and Director of the Center for Advanced Communications, Villanova University, and Dr. William Barott, Associate Professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, are awarded a $650,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to develop novel strategies for coexistence of radio telescope arrays with broadcast stations and wireless communication systems.

The research team for this three-year grant, “Strategies for Co-existence of Radio Telescope Arrays with Broadcast Stations and Wireless Communication Systems,” supported by the NSF Division of Astronomical Sciences under the Enhancing Access to the Radio Spectrum (EARS) program, consists of the Temple University, Villanova University, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and is supported by the SETI Institute.  SETI, standing for Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence, is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to scientific research, education and public outreach for intelligent extraterrestrial life.

Demand for wireless broadband has soared due to technological innovation, such as 4G mobile services, and the rapid increase in wireless internet. This demand would require the utilization of frequencies over a bandwidth that has been traditionally slated for radio telescopes. This frequency infringement may interfere with reception and interpretation of astronomical data and, as such, compromise the search and discoveries of extraterrestrial intelligence. The project puts forward coexistence strategies where wireless users cause minimum interference to astronomical observations.

The project aims at achieving the coexistence strategies by developing interference mitigation techniques that factor in the high-elevation of the look direction of the telescope compared to low-elevation angles of signals emitted by base-stations and wireless systems. A co-existence strategy calls for authorized broadcast stations and wireless transmitters to cooperate with radio telescopes by reporting their locations and providing properties of their signal structures. Prior knowledge of interference location simplifies its nulling and removal by telescope array of multiple units. On the other hand, the distinction in signal characteristics between astronomical events and those of digital communications enables effective cooperative as well as non-cooperative interference identification and suppression. The project has the potential to advance spectrum sharing and utilization and therefore enhance the future capacity for U.S. industry and academic institutions in this area of research and development.

According to NSF, the EARS program was founded in response to the 2010 Presidential Memorandum on Unleashing the Wireless Broadband Revolution mandated by Congress as part of the National Broadband Plan. The aim of this program is to identify bold new concepts with the potential to contribute to significant improvements in the efficiency of radio spectrum utilization, protection of passive sensing services, and in the ability for traditionally underserved Americans to benefit from current and future wireless-enabled goods and services.