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An Introduction to Communication Antennas

Proceedings Paper for Engineering 302 Spring 2004

Kyle Israels, Student Member IEEE, Engineering 302 Proceedings

Abstract- This paper explores many angles of The next breakthrough was in 1916 when operators
communication antennas such as origin, types, at Radio Arlington were able to transmit the sound
applications, material makeup, and fundamental of a human voice up and down the Atlantic coast.
equations. The purpose is to give the reader a brief This was a major breakthrough and the beginning of
history on radio communications as well as a look into AM (Amplitude Modulation) radio.
the electromagnetics of how antennas operate. This sparked an interest in radio and during the mid
1920s many citizens were putting wire array
Index Terms—Antenna, Dipole, Maxwell, Waveguide, antennas on their roofs to talk to other people
nearby. The frequencies used by citizens were in the
high frequency range lower than 200 meters
I. INTRODUCTION wavelength. Because of this people who use this
ommunication antennas are all around us and band are know and shortwave or “ham” operators.
Ca major part of the way we live our lives. People quickly realized that the shorter the wave the
Chances are that you have a cell phone or wireless further it propagates through space. Therefore
PDA on your person right now. A drive down most people operating in the range below 50 meters were
any road will likely take you past a radio tower or able to make contact around the world in the early
cell station array. 1920s [2].
So why are antennas so important and worth
studying? The answer lies in the fact that they are
essential to modern day human communication. III. RADIO WAVE PROPAGATION
Many believe that the ability to talk across the
world with a transmitter and a piece of wire is Radio waves are similar to light waves but they vary
amazing and almost magical. in several aspects. Radio waves do not always
There are many purposes to this paper. We will start follow the inverse square law as their light wave
by exploring the origin of wireless communication, counterpart. There are many external conditions
then explore the different types and parts of that affect a radio wave such as atmospheric
antennas, and then finally explore the fundamental conditions.
equations behind antenna functionality. Discovery of radio signals as electromagnetic waves
is attributed to Heinrich Hertz. Before Hertz carried
out various experiments the knowledge of induction
fields among current carrying wires was used in the
II. ORIGIN OF WIRELESS COMMUNICATION development of electric motors. In radio
applications there is a radiated field that leaves the
Antennas go back to the mid 1800s and much conductor and travels through space.
evolution has occurred since. The first experiments Antennas create a series of oscillation waves with
with wireless communication are on record in 1867 specified frequencies and wavelengths. The
but little details are available. electromagnetic wave travels away from the antenna
A major breakthrough is noted for Guglielmo up to a distance where the energy is completely
Marconi with a wireless call that traveled to boats damped by the environment.
across the Atlantic Ocean. Previous to this feat
radio transitions had a very limited range such that
houses or boats very close could talk to each other,
but communication over great distances was IV. RADIO WAVES AS ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS
unlikely. Radio communication was only a series of
tones, know as mores code, but it now provided the Radio signals are very much like light signals except
ship industry with an element of safety that it didn’t that they have additional components of frequency.
have before Marconi. All radio waves are called transverse
electromagnetic (TEM) waves because they consist
of two fields, offset by 90 degrees along the P antenna
propagating axis. Fig. 1 shows this phenomenon. Loss dB 10. Log Eq 3
The direction of the fields can be oriented by the P load
transmitting antenna. Thus antenna are therefore
“polarized”. An antenna is classified as vertically or
horizontally polarized based on the direction in V. RADIO WAVE PROPAGATION ON EARTH
which the electric field radiates from the antenna.
Most radio antennas are vertically polarized It is TEM waves do not rely on an atmosphere for travel,
important that a pair of antennas has the same but they are affected by atmospheric conditions.
orientations or signal loss on the order of 20 dB can Radio waves travel best though bands of atmosphere
be expected. with low air densities. Thus waves that travel in the
upper atmospheric layers are the waves that travel
the furthest along the radio horizon. Air is less
dense when it is cold, therefore waves travel the
greatest distances at night. This is a common
phenomenon with AM radio stations at night. You
are much more likely to receive distant AM stations
on a summer night than a winter day. Fig 3 shows a
very detailed of TEM wave interactions with the
atmosphere.
High frequencies, those operating in the VHF and
UHF bands, are very susceptible to multipath
Fig.1 Diagram showing the electric and magnetic fields phenomena and line of sight reception. Thus radio
radiating fro m a point charge communications operating in this range need to have
a line of sight between the transmitter and receiver.
Radio waves are attenuated by the inverse square Typically signal range in this band is within 100
law. This is due to the energy being emitted from a miles of the antenna.
point out into a spherical pattern. The power Multipath phenomena is when a signal is distorted
density of a radio wave is measured in watts per by the interaction with the genuine signal and a
meter squared (W/m^2). Due to the inverse square delayed signal which has been reflected upon its
law the power intensity at a distance d from the path. This phenomena results in a “ghost” image on
antenna can be described as in equations 1 below the television, and causes cell phones to
(isotropic conditions) where d is the distance from occasionally drop calls.
the antenna to the point of measurement. Radio signals in the VHF and UHF bands are limited
to line of sight from the antenna to the horizon.
Refraction by the atmosphere can affect the
magnetic fields so that the actual signal range is
P antenna
P distance Eq 1 increased by unto 20 %. A diagram of this
4 π .d
2 phenomena is shown in fig. 2

The power delivered to the load (receiving antenna)


is the product of the aperture gain and the
transmitted power. Aperture gain is gain which is
attributed to the antennas reflector if present.
Equation 2 shows this formula.
2
P distance . λ wavelength
P load Eq 2
2 2
(4 π) d Fig.3 Radio horizon path can be further away fro m point source
Given the equations above the losses due to space co mpared to normal line of sight. [!]
propagation (dB) can be determined using equation
3.
Fig.3 Diagram showing wave propagation affected by atmospheric conditions.[2]

When a signal enters into the atmosphere is interacts


with the ions and as a result the signal is “bent”
back in the direction of the ground. This ionization
allows for the signal skip phenomenon.
Waves are also affected by reflection and refraction.
When a signal hits an object it is reflected at a
complimentary angle, angle of reflection to the
angle at which it hit the object, the angle of
incidence. If a signal strikes an object it creates a
shadow zone behind it where radio communication
is blocked. An example of this could be a lack of
signal in a basement, or behind the moon. Figures 4
and 5 show these phenomena.

Fig. 4 Radio wave being blocked by a foreign object [3]


Fig. 5 Wave reflection off solid object [2]
VI. ANTENNAS MODELED AS A CAPACITOR Figure 7 Shows phase addition theorems. These
theorems are not only applied to transmitting
Before we go much further it is necessary to talk antennas with standing waves but also receiving
about how the transmitting antenna develops a TEM antennas experiencing delayed signals.
wave. The antenna is supplied by an AC current and
voltage from a transmitter operating at a specified
frequency. The antenna acts as a capacitor
developing magnetic and electric fields between the
poles. Unlike electrical capacitors, which have a
dielectric material between the plates, antennas have
poles that are separated but usually on axis with
each other. A common example that will be
explored later is the dipole antenna. When a signal
is applied to an antenna the voltage lags the current
by 90 degrees. This is what caused the electric and
magnetic fields to also be out of phase with each
other. As the current flows in the antenna the
electric field goes to a minimum level and the
magnetic field rises to its maximum level. Once the
current supply is stopped a voltage differential is
generated in the antenna and the electric field builds
to its maximum level. Fig 6 shows a graphical
representation of this procedure.

Fig 7a shows two signals in phase with each other. 7b shows


two waves out of phase causing cancellation.

There are a couple variations in devices which allow


electromagnetic waves to propagate through a
medium. The two most common of devices are
waveguides and antennas. A waveguide is described
as a device which moves electromagnetic waves
between two direct points allowing very little
energy outside of the path. An example of a wave
guide might be a piece of coax cable between a
transmitter and its antenna. An antenna allows the
Fig. 6 Voltage and Current density in a dipole antenna. Feed electromagnetic waves to propagate in all directions
point is in center of horizontal axis [2]. into space (depending on type of antenna).
Waveguides come in many different varieties as
When the current is abruptly stopped the result on shown in figure 9.
an antenna is a voltage buildup at the ends. This For means of explorations consider the parallel plate
causes a wave to travel backwards towards the waveguide. In order for the wave guide to work a
transmitter. This wave is known as a reflected wave voltage differential is applied between the two
and can aid or harm the overall antenna efficiency. conducting plates. Current flows in the z direction
The reflected wave is summed with the wave and therefore the magnetic field in developed in the
generated by the transmitter and the resultant is y direction, 90 degrees off axis. The wave is guided
called a standing wave. The standing wave can be
twice the magnitude of the transmitter input if the
waves are in phase. The standing wave can have a
very small magnitude if the waves are out of phase
with each other. The standing wave is determined
directly by the length of the antenna.
VII. APPLICATIONS OF MAXWELL’S EQUATIONS.

In order to understand antennas it is necessary to


understand the math behind their fundamentals.
Maxwell’s equations state that in order to create
electromagnetic fields a time varying current source
is needed. The fields must satisfy the four
Maxwell’s equations in a region containing time-
varying charge and current sources. Maxwell’s
equations in a lossless (dielectric), linear, isotropic,
and homogeneous medium in time dependent form
are stated below: [

∂B
∇×E = −
∂t Eq 4
∂B
∇×H = J +
∂t Eq 5
∇⋅B = 0 Eq 6

Fig. 9 Typical waveguides. A)square guide, B)circuilar guide,


C)Dielectric plate, D)Coaxial guide. C and D are capacitive in
∇⋅D = ρ Eq 7
nature. [3]

ρ and J are the volume charge and volume current


densities that exist in the medium as time-varying
sources.
Field B is a continuous field expressed in terms of
field A, which is the magnetic potential vector.
B = ∇× A Eq 8

The electric field can be determined by taking the


derivative of the magnetic potential field. Both A
and E are time varying.
∂A
E = −∇V −
∂t Eq 9
The time varying magnetic field can be modeled
with the following simplified equation:
∂  ∂ A
∇ × ∇ × A = µ J + µε  − ∇V − 
Fig 10. Signal propagation in a waveguide [3] ∂t  ∂t 
Eq 10
where u is the permeability of the dielectric insulator.
along the medium in a “zig-zag” motion between the Applying the uniqueness theorem and a couple of
two plates. The wave vectors are equal in simplifications yields the Helmholtz equations
magnitudes as shown in figure 10. This figure show
a TEM (traverse electric magnetic) wave as it
travels down a transmission line. ∇ 2 A + β 2 A = −µ J Eq 11
voltage is at a minimum. This also equates to an
where Beta is defined as electric field intensity which is close to zero. This
point on the antenna also has the lowest input
resistance making it ideal as the input signal point
β = ω µε for the transmitter.
Eq 12
The phase velocity, or speed of the wave is defined
as

U=w/B Eq 13
where w is the frequency of the signal
It is important to note that the maximum wave speed
is 3x10^8 m/s, the speed of light.

Given all of these equations the Voltage potential of


a radio wave as a function of time and distance from
source (r) is:
Fig 11. Voltage and Current density along a dipole. The feed
Qcos ( ωt θ ) point is in the center of the horizontal axis. [2]
V( r , t ) Eq 14
4 π . i. e . r The input of an antenna can be easily calculated
using the power law derived from Ohms law.
VIII. THE DIPOLE ANTENNA
P
R Eq 16
2
One of the simplest and oldest type of antennas is I
the Dipole of Hertzian antenna. This type of It is essential to match the antenna input resistance
antenna is characterized by two radiators placed in with both the transmission line and the transmitter
line with each other. output. Typical input resistances for dipole
This L 468 ft was first used by Heinrich Hertz who
antenna antennas are between 60 and 90 ohms, but it is
is considered
f to be the father of modern day radio. interesting to note that the antenna resistance will
The length of the radiators is determined by the vary with outside conditions such as weather and
wavelength. Each wavelength must be ¼ of the nearby objects. A graph showing the relationship
desired frequency for optimal power delivery. between the height of an antenna above the ground
and its resistance is shown below in figure 12.
Therefore the length of each radiator is determined
by equation 15 where f is the frequency in MHz and
L is the radiator length in feet.

468 ft
L
f Eq 15

The length is not the only feature of interest in


making an efficient antenna. Antennas act as a RLC
network with varying impedances dependent on the
frequency of interest. At some frequencies the
antenna acts as an inductor and at others it acts as a
capacitor. The perfect antenna will be one in which
the capacitance and inductive characteristics will
cancel each other out. This is called a resonant
antenna. An efficient antenna is one which is
resistive and resonant.
Dipoles antennas are coupled to transmitters by a
transmission line which is connected between the
radiators. As shown in figure 11 the center is a
Fig 12. Input resistance as a function of antenna distance fro m
point at which the Current is prominent and the the ground. [2]
The magnetic field in a dipole can be modeled using X. RADIATION IN A QUARTER-WAVE DIPOLE ANTENNA
equation 17.
µ I − jβr The dipole antenna acts as an isotropic point source,
Az =
4π ∫ C
r
e dz
Eq. 17
radiating its energy in all directions. This
characteristic makes the antenna omni directional in
where I is the current along the antenna defined as in
respect to coverage area of the radiated signal.
equation 18.
Figure 14 shows an idealized diagram of dipole
antenna radiation. As shown the energy is directed
I = jω q Eq. 18 in all directions around the antenna axis (B), the
signal is radiated from approximately 45 degrees off
Variable r represents the distance line of sight from the axis in the direction perpendicular to the antenna
antenna to the receiver. This indicates that a radiated field axis (C).
from an antenna decreases proportionally as the distance
increases.

IX. STANDING WAVES IN DIPOLE ANTENNAS

In the previous section I outlined how to make an


antenna resonant. If this can’t be achieved by
physical placement of the feed point and the
antennas height additional measures must be taken.
The simplest fix is to use a matching transformer to
match the transmission line to the antenna input. If
there is a large difference between these two
features a phenomena called standing waves will
occur on the lines.
A measure of the standing wave ratio (SWR) is
calculated by taking a ratio of Zo, the transmission
line resistance, and R, the antenna resistance.

Z0 Fig 14. Dipole Radiation patterns. [2]


SWR
R Eq. 19 Radiation and directivity can be expressed as
Figure 13 shows a tuning plot for an antenna based directive gain which is the ratio of the power
on the SWR value. In the plot trace A indicates a density that is radiated by the antenna to the average
short in the antenna. Traces B and C are ideal for power density. This is determined by equation 20.
the given frequency, and traces D and E indicate an
antenna that is tuned to frequencies higher and
lower than the specified design frequency. G=
()
4πr 2 S
Prad Eq. 20

The gain for a dipole can be simplified further to

G = 1.5 sin 2 θ Eq. 21

By applying simple trigonometry to this equation it is easy to


see that the maximum gain from a dipole antenna is 1.5, or
1.76dB.

Fig 13. SWR Tuning plots for various frequencies.[2]


XI. EFFICIENCY OF AN ANTENNA lobe of radiation is much greater than the secondary or side
lobes. Depending on the efficiency of the antenna the main
The efficiency of an antenna is directly related to its lobe can be between 20 and 40 dB higher than the omni
total resistance and the power which is delivered to directional equivalent.
it. The total resistance is the sum of the connector
resistance as well as the resistance due to radiation.
The power delivered to the antenna is defined in
equation 22 where I is the current delivered and
Rrad is the total antenna resistance.

The power radiated by the antenna is related to the


resistance of radiation.
1 2
Prad = I Rrad
2 Eq. 23

The efficiency of the antenna is the ratio of power radiated vs


the power delivered to the antenna.

Prad Rrad Rrad


ηe = = = Eq. 23
Pin Ra RC + Rrad Fig. 14 Directionality and gain of a Yagi antenna. [1]

XIV. WIRE LOOP ANTENNAS


XII. RADIATION IN HALF-WAVE DIPOLE ANTENNA
When more power is needed to be dissipated by the antenna a A third common type of antenna is a wire loop. This antenna
half wave or full wave antenna is appropriate. Increasing the differs from both dipole and directional in that it is less
antenna length also increases the amount of current that can efficient, but it has some unique characteristics that allow it
be supplied to the center tap. to be used for specific applications.
Wire loop antennas are classified as being large or small
depending on the size of the loops. A small loop antenna
XIII. DIRECTIONAL ANTENNAS refers to an antenna in which the length or a single loop is
less than .2 wavelengths in length. A large loop antenna is
therefore any antenna with a loop larger than .2 wavelengths.
Sometimes radio signals need only be focused in a single The main difference between the loop antennas in terms of
direction. When this is the application a directional antenna electromagnetics is that the current varies along the wire of a
rather than an omni directional antenna is better suited for the large loop antenna. Also because the large loop antenna is
job. typically one wire in density the feed point is at a point where
The most common directional antenna is called a Yagi-Uda the voltage potential is a maximum. This results in a feed
antenna because it is very effective at radiating energy in a point with a resistance in the order of 1 kilo ohm.
single direction. The Yagi antenna is typically a half Wire loop antennas generate and receive magnetic flux
wavelength type and has three radiating elements instead of a around the outside of their coils as shown in figure 15. This
single dipole radiating element. The antenna has a single characteristic allows the antennas to be directional, or used to
driver that is fed at a center tap similar to a dipole. In addition determine the direction in which a signal is being received.
there are a minimum of two additional elements couples to The figure also shows two nulls on either side of the loop.
the driver. These elements act as reflectors which absorb The sensitivity of these nulls can be -30 dB from the
energy from the main radiating element and channel it back maximum reception areas. Taking advantage of this
to the feed point to be redirected in the desired direction. The electromagnetic characteristic allows this antenna to reject
reflector elements are typically 5 % longer than the length of noise or track a signal when used on a receiver or send a
the main radiating element. The spacing between the radiator semi-directional signal in a compact environment when used
and the reflectors is typically .2 wavelengths. on a transmitter.
Figure 14 shows a directivity graph that would be typical of
the performance of a Yagi antenna. In the figure the angle a
between the line of propagation to the beam edge is the angle
of directionality, or the angle between 0 and -3dB. The main
XV. REFERENCES
[1] “Antenna Fundementals: chapter 5” University of South
Carolina,http://www.ece.sc.edu/classes/
Spring01/elct362/Ch5_362.doc
[2] Carr, Joeseph J. “Practical Antenna Handbook”, McGraw
Hill publishers, 3rd edition, 1998.
[3] Hayt, William H and John Buck, “Engineering
Electromagnetics” McGraw Hill, 6th edition, 2001.
[4] Imberi, Jonathan and Sara. “Ham-shack.com”
http://www.ham-shack.com/propagation.html.
[5] Siwiak, Kazimierz. “Radiowave Propagation and antennas
for personal communications” Artech House Publishers,
1995.
[6] Vizmuller, Peter. “RF Design Guide: systems, circuits,
and equations” Artech House Publishers, 1995
[7] Wade, Paul “Antenna Fundamentals”, 1998
Fig.15 Effective plot of a small wire loop antenna