Active RIS vs. Passive RIS: Which Will Prevail in 6G?

Zijian Zhang, Linglong Dai, Xibi Chen, Changhao Liu, Fan Yang, Robert Schober, H. Vincent Poor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


As a revolutionary paradigm for controlling wireless channels, reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RISs) have emerged as a candidate technology for future 6G networks. However, due to the 'multiplicative fading' effect, the existing passive RISs only achieve limited capacity gains in many scenarios with strong direct links. In this paper, the concept of active RISs is proposed to overcome this fundamental limitation. Unlike passive RISs that reflect signals without amplification, active RISs can amplify the reflected signals via amplifiers integrated into their elements. To characterize the signal amplification and incorporate the noise introduced by the active components, we develop and verify the signal model of active RISs through the experimental measurements based on a fabricated active RIS element. Based on the verified signal model, we further analyze the asymptotic performance of active RISs to reveal the substantial capacity gain they provide for wireless communications. Finally, we formulate the sum-rate maximization problem for an active RIS aided multi-user multiple-input single-output (MU-MISO) system and a joint transmit beamforming and reflect precoding scheme is proposed to solve this problem. Simulation results show that, in a typical wireless system, passive RISs can realize only a limited sum-rate gain of 22%, while active RISs can achieve a significant sum-rate gain of 130%, thus overcoming the 'multiplicative fading' effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1707-1725
Number of pages19
JournalIEEE Transactions on Communications
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Reconfigurable intelligent surface (RIS)
  • active RIS
  • beamforming
  • signal model


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