in computers, telephones, televisions and cellular phones, todays
circuit boards are faster, denser and smaller
than ever before, creating exciting new possibilities and applications.
"But as this happens," says van Deventer, "they become
more susceptible to signal distortion. As the lines on a circuit board
get closer together, the signal may couple to another line, creating cross-talk
which can cause the signal to lose power. Faster signals can also mean
more noise and increase the potential for distortion." The result
can be wide-ranging, from a lost computer connection to fuzzy reception
on a cell phone.
Van Deventer and her
team are working to address these issues in order to create better models
for the circuit boards used in the telecommunications industry. "We
develop models that help
identify how signals
get from point A to point B," says van Deventer. "These models
are much more sophisticated than in the past because they have to account
for the high frequency effects that the latest technology creates."
With the increasing
speed of new developments in the telecommunications industry, companies
rarely have the time or the expertise to build prototypes or conduct testing
after production, so the software modelling done by teams like van Deventers
is invaluable. "The industrial community is very interested in our
research capabilities," says van Deventer. "It always needs
to be working on the next generation of products, so it turns to universities
to get the research done." The importance of this work is reflected
in the research funding van Deventer and her team receive from the Natural
Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Communications
& Information Technology Ontario (CITO), and their major industrial
partner, Nortel. "We are fulfilling a very real need in the industry
today, which will only increase as technology creates more opportunity."
In the process, consumers will continue to enjoy faster computers, lighter
cell phones, smaller electronic organizers and the vast array of other
electronic gadgets the high-tech world has to offer.