The original through-wall coffee can radar

In summer 2006 with the MSUEMRG, an AFOSR sponsorship and mentoring from Greg Charvat, Michael developed and demonstrated a through-wall microwatt radar that detected humans for less than $35. Using coffee can antennas and hand-built circuit boards with COTS transistors, Michael created an FMCW radar sweeping 1.6GHz-2.0GHz that was useful for detecting the radial distance to humans through walls.

Perspective view of coffee can radar hardware, June 2006

Overhead view of original Coffee Can Radar.

Circuit boards and microwave parts for coffee can radar.

Internal view of the first coffee can radar.

Circuit boards and microwave parts for coffee can radar.

Internal view of the first coffee can radar.

First Place Senior Capstone Project

As an undergraduate senior design project (which, thanks to the hard work of my teammates took First Place with a substantial cash reward), we developed a much more robust version of this system with Vivaldi antennas (inspired from Greg’s Ph.D. dissertation research). The final result was a GUI with MTI (moving target indicator) sensitive to slight human motion.

Through-wall microwatt radar block diagram.

Through-wall microwatt radar with motion detection block diagram.

LTSA antenna made from a circuit board for coffee can radar.

Linear Taper Slot Antenna enabling multi-octave RF chirp bandwidth.

LTSA antenna measured in compact antenna range.

LTSA antenna pattern measured in MSU EMRG compact antenna range.

through wall radar system.

First Place Capstone Award winning through-wall radar hardware.

Other Developments

This coffee can radar system was spun into not only an MIT OCW and IAP course, but also something that has been presented to audiences worldwide. The original prototype coffee-can radar was presented at the 2007 URSI conference in Ottawa.

The derivations of the original coffee can radar system that proliferated have generally been 20x-100x as expensive, with not very much performance gain in my opinion.   The radar should cost less than $100 to build.

Please leave a comment or email with questions, I’ll be happy to post notes/code.