A simple & [and] accessible front-end satellite receiver for communications and e-learning in emerging countries

For the universities of the emergent countries, and those of Cameroon in particular, the fight to reach a durable development requires to know the needed scientific and technical information for their development, how to get it and to spread it out among partners in the country. Obviously, the complete answer to these preoccupations lies well beyond the framework of this project, but a projection, partial but highly significant, can nevertheless be obtained if one concentrates one's efforts on a specific technological field : in the present study, we shall treat of antennas for telecommunications systems. This subject is highly suitable as example and potential incubator for future achievements. The ultimate goal is to design and carry out the fabrication of a system of satellite communications adapted to the financial resources and to the development needs of the universities of the South. First of all, we will review the state of the art in satellite communication systems, both for already operating ones and also for new systems, still under development. Then we will determine which system of satellite telecommunications has a receiver and communication fees with affordable costs : our choice will be made on Worldspace satellite system, which was actually designed for developing countries. We will also review the status of planar antenna and low noise amplifier technology, and then explicit the basic challenge involved in our thesis project. One of the aims of this project is to use local wood as dielectric in SSFIP type antennas. Before using a material as dielectric in an antenna design, it must be characterized. Before carrying the characterization of local wood species, we will begin by reviewing some commonly used dielectric measurement techniques. Then we will carry out a series of measurements to characterize the species of wood growing in the Cameroonian forest. At the end of the series of measurements and according to the dielectric losses observed, we will select the species of wood best suited to make a good substrate for a microstrip antenna. Next, we will design, manufacture and test low cost antennas. These antennas must satisfy not only technical criteria compatible with those of the telecommunications system chosen but, even most importantly, it must meet socioeconomic criteria : the antennas must be manufactured with low cost and locally available materials, making use of simple technological processes. Once we have found the wood species that exhibits the lowest dielectric losses, we will simulate, and then manufacture the SSFIP type antenna with wood as substrate and aluminium as conducting element. Then we will measure its characteristics and check whether they are compatible with those of a Worldspace receiver. The signal received from the satellite by the antenna is very weak. It will be important to strengthen the received signal with a low noise amplifier (LNA) before connecting the antenna to the receiver. Thus the antenna and the LNA constitute an active antenna and form what we call here the radiofrequency (RF) front-end. We will design, manufacture and measure the LNA characteristics. A simple manufacturing process must be used to realize these antennas, because later on they must be manufactured locally in Cameroon : this is a determining challenge to ensure the economic independence, which is essential in our thesis project. Afterwards we will join the LNA to the planar antenna and connect the active antenna obtained in this manner to a commercial Worldspace receiver. Finally, we will perform receiving tests of the Worldspace radio station with the system designed. In parallel, our project includes a second goal, which presents an equivalent significance. We will use existing Matlab codes to develop an online course to teach antenna theory. In addition, at the end of the project and when the Cameroonian local manufacture would have started, we will put all algorithms used for the antenna design on the web site in a multi-media applet, together with a complete documentation of all the manufacturing technologies used. The courses that already exist in Lausanne and Yaounde, relating to the description of other types of antennas will be added, thus leading to a complete teachware that would ensure the durability and the dissemination of the results obtained, and would provide an invaluable tool for teaching and training.

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