MESA+ University of Twente
Research Business & Innovation About MESA+ Storyline Education

Volume 2, 2013

MESA+ stands for research, education, excellent facilities and entrepreneurship. Occasionally all of them unite in a single person. Chris Roeloffzen for instance: scientist, lecturer and entrepreneur.

Engineering and technology
“I have always had a particular interest in engineering and technology. But I don’t want to be engaged in the theoretical side alone; I also want to make things that really work, things that are useful. The combination of inventing, building, testing and doing something with the result is to my mind very appealing.”

“I established SATRAX in 2009; a company that manufactures a revolutionary type of satellite antenna. I soon realised that I couldn’t be good in all aspects of the business and after three months I brought in co-founder Paul van Dijk. He is the general manager and I’m the technical director. Early in 2013 we took on our first employee. We have our chips manufactured by LioniX, another spin-off. You can’t do everything yourself. You have to do what you’re good at.”

The university
“I am in full employment at the University of Twente. The university stands firmly behind my company but I still have to clearly separate the two. The research part belongs to the university; the products belong to the company. The measuring equipment you see in this lab costs hundreds of thousands. As a new company there’s no way I could have paid for it. The university gets the publications and also ensures that the knowledge is utilised.”

The market
“Our invention is now ready for the market. We have gathered the complete supply chain around us. You’re not a success if you only have an idea or a prototype. You have to have a working, tested and validated demonstration model. We are now ready to upgrade to mass production. Several international companies have already expressed their interest. For Internet in aircraft, for instance, and there’s also interest in a new generation of mobile telephone masts. Complaints are already being made about reception on today’s 3G band. We’ll soon have 4G, and our invention is suitable for that too. We shall continue to grow in 2013.”

The secret behind the SATRAX antenna
The SATRAX antenna does not work like a standard satellite dish. It consists of a series of small antennae. Scientists refer to that as an array, i.e. a series. If you know how to link up that series of antennae properly then you have the equivalent of a large antenna. The crux of the matter here is in the word ‘properly’. Array antennae are on the market but they have difficulty with equalising the incoming satellite waves. For the experts: conventional arrays shift the phases of the individual signals while SATRAX corrects the path length. The technique behind SATRAX is that it transforms radio waves into light. And recently we have been able to manipulate light on a chip. For instance, SATRAX is now able to ensure that certain light waves are passed through a small ring twice so that they come out the other side at the same time as other light waves. The chip is programmed in such a way that it constantly calculates which light waves have to make an extra cycle through the ring. SATRAX has these chips manufactured by LioniX, a MESA+ spin-off specialised in the manufacture of optical chips.

Name: Chris Roeloffzen (1973)
POSITION : University lecturer in the Telecommunication Engineering Group, run by Frank Leferink, and technical director of SATRAX, a company that manufactures a revolutionary type of antenna to enable fast access to the Internet and make telephone calls from inside aircraft
PREVIOUSLY: He studied engineering physics in Twente and obtained his doctorate – also from Twente - on research into optical chips. Roeloffzen conducted part of his doctoral research at IBM in Zurich. He has been a university lecturer since 2002. In 2009 he founded SATRAX
MESA+... “We have a unique infrastructure here at Twente. Thanks to ME SA+ I am able to produce high performance optical chips”

Internet for all aircraft passengers SATRAX (SAtellite TRAcking “plus the X simply because it looks good”) is a company that develops a revolutionary type of antenna: an antenna that allows aircraft to be equipped with a fast Internet connection via the satellite. Today, aircraft generally have a sort of satellite dish inside a plastic dome. That dome implies that the aircraft consumes two to three per cent more kerosene. These dishes have a capacity for only about ten telephone calls simultaneously. The SATRAX antennas are flat and can be installed inside the skin of the plane. That saves fuel. Moreover, the antennas utilise the full capacity and a hundred telephone calls are possible. Or a hundred HD television channels. Or a combination of TV, Internet and telephone. SATRAX has meanwhile made two demonstration models of their system which have been tested and certified. The first orders are expected within the next few years. Aircraft builders are their first target group, but the system can also prove useful for space travel, shipping, the car industry, the armed forces and astronomy.