City University has secured a 5 million yuan (HK$5.71 million) grant to develop a compact antenna for China's new satellite global positioning system.
CityU is the first Hong Kong university to receive funding from the Beijing-based National Astronomical Observatory (NAO) to participate in the research and development of the Chinese Area Positioning System (CAPS).
Staff at CityU's state key laboratory of millimetre waves have already started developing an advanced navigation and communication antenna unit which will allow CAPS to receive and send data and voice transmissions.
Current global positioning systems can only send data, so the antenna will dramatically change the way satellites are used in everyday communication.
The team has developed a handful of prototypes, all about the size of a HK$5 coin. Previous satellite antennas were about 20cm long.
The project is also looking at how to streamline all the elements that make a radio frequency circuit such as the amplifier, receiver and mixer so that what previously would take up to 10cm of space will now be about the size of a pea.
It was a chance meeting that led to the partnership, after Professor Ai Guoxiang, NAO founding director and member of the Chinese Academy of Science, visited CityU last November and visited the laboratory. He was so impressed by the laboratory's work that he quickly established the partnership which was signed earlier this year.
Laboratory director Luk Kwai-man said: 'We are very honoured to be invited to participate in this national-level project and contribute to the development of China's communication system.'
He said the laboratory's work on antennas over the past 20 years had helped it secure the funding.
CAPS was expected to be cheaper than other services provided by satellites because it would only use existing satellites and not need new ones.
He said present global positioning systems used three atomic clocks to calculate position. 'But for CAPS, they have atomic clocks on ground stations in mainland China so this is the special feature and a world first.'
CityU's work over the past 20 years has helped it get funding for the satellite project
According to NASA, the number of all satellites in earth orbit at present is about: 3,000