2. Introduction


Handphones are something that an inseparable part of our lives, especially in today’s world. We use our handphones for almost everything -- checking our email, watching videos, communication and much more. Basically everything that we need to do have been compressed down into our phones by the manufacturer. This increased our reliance on technology, and especially, smartphones.

Handphones ranges from the old traditional Nokia phones to the new and advanced Saygus V^2 (as shown in CES 2015). They pack incredible processing power and as every single day goes by, we are depending on these small devices more and more.

However, with great power comes with great responsibility. Apart from being able to handle the tasks given by the user efficiently and effectively, it must also ensure the safety of the user. Even though the safety of the mobile phone industry has improved over the decades, there are still some common risks that still exists. Some examples of these includes;

  • The glass of the screen cracking and the user has the chance of being cut
  • (Some badly-designed phones) has the chance of exploding when overcharged
  • GSM Radiation produced by the phone is said to be unhealthy
  • If not handled properly, or tampered, the phone has a chance to electrocute the user
  • Looking at the phone for too long, which is what most of the younger generation does, can degrade their eyes, which is one of the main cause of Myopia (younger generations tend to look down at their phones in most of the free time they have, and hence rarely go for workouts)

There has also been psychological risks associated with the phone. Even though the phones do not directly cause the problems, they still exist and still pose a threat to the user. Some examples of these includes;
  • Addiction to mobile phones and/or their games
  • Texting while driving, something that would never have been possible without the invention of mobile phones

Of course, many of these problems have already been solved. Phones nowadays uses Corning Gorilla Glass 3 instead of regular glass, so when the screen shatters, the glass pieces don’t fall all over the place. They still “stick” to the phone and the phone can actually still be used, as seen in Figure 1.1.

Figure 1.1 An example of one of the features of Gorilla Glass 3 -- instead of breaking apart and falling over the place, the broken glass “sticks” together to prevent the little pieces from falling out easily

Recently, manufacturers have also pushed for waterproof phones. So this makes the phone more durable and it also reduces water coming into contact with the electronics in the phone, which also in turn reduces the chance of being electrocuted by the phone.

However, there is still a problem left untouched by the mobile phone industry -- radiation. Specifically, GSM radiation. Many phone companies has denied the existence of these radiation, let alone solve it, because of how paranoid the consumers are.

Our group has decided to tackle this controversial problem on GSM radiation. If the manufactures are unwilling to branch into this problem, we, the consumers will do it for them.

About GSM technology

GSM technology, an acronym for Groupe Special Mobile (Global System for Mobile Communications) is one of the most used software services used by mobile carriers(the other one being CDMA and LTE). In fact, this is the most used mobile signal carrier technology with up to 80% of the total users using GSM. This occupies 90% of the industry's market share and operates in 219 countries and territories. Most probably, you too are using a GSM phone, and one way to find out, is to remove the battery. If it is an old phone as shown in Figure 1.1.
["What does GSM mean in a cell phone?"  19 December 2000.]

Figure 2.1 Old phones have their SIM Card located under the battery

If it is the new generation type of phone, then the SIM is not located behind the battery, hence, it is easier to install, as seen in Figure 1.2 & 1.3. Phones nowadays also have slots in which SD cards, or Secure Digital cards, can be inserted. These are extra storage spaces, in which information can be stored, we digress.

Figure 2.2 An example of a newer phone, which does not require you to remove the battery if you want to change the SIM Card
Figure 2.3

This signal carrier technology was first developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) establish a proper procedure for second generation (2G) networks used by mobile phones. This network was commercially launched first in on the GSM standard in Finland by Radiolinja in 1991. 2G network has a few benefits over its precursors such as:

  • 2G systems were notably more better on the electromagnetic spectrum
  • had new data services such as Short Message Service (SMS) & Multi-Media Service (MMS)
  • these knew services are also data-encrypted; meaning only the intended receiver can receive the information/phone call. [Tomasz Kawalec (2012)]
But of course nowadays we have 3G and even 4G, which is the improved versions of their predecessors.

Pros and cons of different wireless telephone technologies

-Longer wavelength the electromagnetic spectrum, hence lower “quanta”(packets of radiation)

-Uses a broad range of bandwidths which means it can connect to nearly everywhere on the planet.
-Produced more radiation as compared to 3G, 4G and wifi

- Notably slower than 3G, 4G and Wifi

-Less secure than 3G, 4G and wifi

-Doesn’t support video calls
-Supports up to 5MhZ of spectrum.

-Supports video calls
-Increase in internet speed which allows use of GPS

-Uses only a fixed range so some areas cannot access 3G at all

-Costly to setup
4G LTE / 4G+ / 4.5G
(name varies from country to country)
-Supports at least 200 active data clients in every 5 MHz cell.

-Increased spectrum flexibility: 1.4 MHz, 3 MHz, 5 MHz, 10 MHz, 15 MHz and 20 MHz wide cells are standardized.
-Use higher frequencies and requires more base towers for the same coverage as 2G.

-Cannot made phone calls and requires operators to have V0LTE ,CSFB or SVLTE enabled at their side.
-Can be very strong

-Produces less radiation as compared to 2G, 3G and 4G
-Shorter range as higher frequencies are used.

-Unreliable when distance between device and router is above 100 feet.
   [Difference between 2G and 3G Technology 2G vs 3G Technology]
Nowadays, we mainly use Wifi to surf the web and perform tasks associated with the internet. In fact, companies has started to produce Wifi-only products, such as the Nexus 9. This means that the product does not have a SIM slot so you cannot connect via a SIM card.
However, the problem with Wifi is that it is short range. Figure 1.4 shows the distribution of the Wifi signals in an average house. Notice how the the Wifi is really strong at its source and decreases as it gets obstructed by furniture and the walls of the house.
Figure 3.1 The distribution of Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) across an average house.
And this is one of the reasons some people still rely on GSM heavily. It is much more stable and the strength is so intense that when the signals are broadcasted from the GSM towers, it can still reach your home and still maintain its stability as its signals pass through your home.
This is especially true for people living in non-urban areas, where forests are everywhere and your surroundings are just wilderness. Because of the fact that 2G can be used among a wide range of bandwidth, it can reach places far far away from cities and still provide at least a connection to the user. 2G is still popular in the non-urbanized parts of the world, even though its quite slow as compared to 3G, 4G and Wifi. [MailOnline]

How the project relates to GSM technology

         As you may know, through social media and other platforms, rumours, fallacy, and 'so-called' facts have been circulating around about the dangers of the radiation released when a GSM receiver detects a call and rings. It is said that there is a high frequency of electromagnetic(EM) radiation released by the phone within the first few rings. Hence, to find out whether the frequency produced is hurting, this team of four is going to do some observation and experimentation.

Digression into frequency

So what is frequency? Frequency is just the number of cycles a wave goes from either trough to trough or crest to crest, as seen in Figure 1.6.

Figure 4.1 A diagram of a wave, or frequency [Crave of the wave]

1 cycle of a wave going from either trough to trough or crest to crest is called a Hertz, or Hz for short. It is the SI unit for one cycle of a wave. The higher the frequency, the more energetic the radiation. To solve for the wavelength just using the frequency, there would be a simple equation:
 Hz     =  λ

c denotes speed of light
h denotes an hour
Hz denotes frequency
λ denotes the wavelength of the wave

Hence this means that the higher the frequency, the shorter the wavelength. If a sound(sound is also a wave) you hear is high-pitched(shorter wavelength), it has a high frequency and vice versa if the sound is low-pitched(longer wavelength). Same for an electromagnetic wave; if it has a short wavelength, then it has a high frequency and is more energetic, and vice versa if it has a low frequency(lesser energetic).

Digression into amplitude

Amplitude is basically about the intensity of the the waves released from the source. The SI unit for amplitude is metres(m). The amplitude of a wave is the distance between the trough and midpoint, which is between the trough and crest, or the crest and midpoint.
Figure 4.2 [Parts of a wave]

If a sound you hear is loud, it has a high amplitude and vice versa if the sound is soft. Same for an electromagnetic wave; if it has a high intensity, then it has a high amplitude, and conversely if it has a low intensity.

Figure 4.3 An cathode ray emitter, which emits electrons into the screen of the CRO    1. Deflection voltage electrode 2. Electron gun 3. Electron beam 4. Focusing coil(Electromagnet) 5. Phosphor-coated inner side of the screen [File:CRT oscilloscope.png - Wikimedia Commons]

Digression into Voltage Sensor

A voltage sensor is very straightforward; it records the electric current travelling through its wires. For this experiment it is being used to record the electric current produced in the antenna surrounding the phone due to the electromagnetic field produced by the phone when its ringing. What basically happens is that the electromagnetic field is made up of an electric and magnetic field, as seen in Figure 4.5. And the magnetic field induces a current in the wire, which is proportional to the amplitude of the electromagnetic radiation released. The higher the voltage, the higher the intensity of the radiation.
Figure 4.4 Diagram of an electromagnetic wave, with the horizontal and vertical being magnetic and electric field respectively. [File: Onde Electromagnetique.svg]

Figure 4.5 Voltage sensor


These were our initial research ideas:

Why was the idea rejected?
Option 1:

Construction of a machine that uses an electrostatic field to catch dust (more efficient than a vacuum cleaner)
This idea was rejected as the amount of time required to dedicate to a project like this was more than that offered, as it was a engineering project and hence needed time for research, building and testing. For the amount of time that was offered, all that could have been done was the research and probably half of the building due to the time constraints. And hence, we wouldn’t have enough time to complete this project; therefore, we were forced to decline it.
Option 2:

Researching on the quantum effects of light: reproduction of Einstein’s experiment, the photoelectric effect and the single-slit diffraction.
This idea (photoelectric) was already done by our seniors, and also proposed higher-than-normal risks due to the ionizing radiation released from the Ultraviolet radiation, which could harm us, and hence, we rejected this idea.
Option 3:

Detection of a solar storm using a radio telescope.
This idea was also done by seniors in the past years and according to Mr Tan Hoe Teck, the failure rate for this project is very high. The fact that we had to solder all the components would make it very risky as we could solder the circuit board wrongly, or worse burn our hands due to the intense heat as we were not trained for soldering. Hence, we were not advised to take on this project. Therefore, our decision to not use this idea.
Option 4:

Finding out the trajectory of a water current changes because of an electrostatic field because of the structure of a water molecule or contaminants/ additives in the water
Although this was one of the good types of experiment, we were in a dilemma of choosing between this, and the other project of “finding out whether GSM radiation is in the High Frequency range and if it is released in high intensity bursts” and eventually decided that the latter was more “suitable”.

In the end, we decided to go with investigating whether the electromagnetic waves released from GSM signal phones, when it receives phone call, releases high frequency and high intensity bursts of electromagnetic radiation.


We hypothesize that the frequency and intensity of the electromagnetic radiation released by a GSM ringing phone can be in the High Frequency range of the electromagnetic spectrum(3•10^6 Hz≤ x) in its initial burst of ringing and even when a person receives a call and is conversing, as compared to a newer phone . The amount of radiation also changes with phone brands.


[      X   ] Test a hypothesis: Hypothesis-driven research
[           ] Measure a value: Experimental research (I)
[           ] Measure a function or relationship: Experimental research (II)
[ ] Construct a model: Theoretical sciences and applied mathematics
[ ] Observational and exploratory research
[ ] Improve a product or process: Industrial and applied research
Investigation of the intensity and frequency of GSM signals produced by different models of phones.

This project is basically going to be about the frequency and amplitude of the electromagnetic waves released from different brands(old/new) of phones when the receiver/transmitter of the phone sends/receives a phone call

Independent Variables
  • Brands of phones
  • Models of phones
Dependant Variables
  • Frequency of the electromagnetic radiation
  • Amplitude of the electromagnetic radiation
Constant Variables
  • Location of experiment
  • Phone Carrier
  • Data receiver (Datalogger)
  • Graphing application (for the mapping of the trend of the frequency of the graph)
  • Amount of time the phone rings
  • Ringtone
  • The place from which a phone is used to call.
  • Amount of wire used
  • Type of diode used

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