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In radio engineering, an antenna or aerial is the interface between radio waves propagating through space and electric currents moving in metal conductors, used with a transmitter or receiver.[1] In transmission, a radio transmitter supplies an electric current to the antenna's terminals, and the antenna radiates the energy from the current as electromagnetic waves (radio waves). In reception, an antenna intercepts some of the power of a radio wave in order to produce an electric current at its terminals, that is applied to a receiver to be amplified. Antennas are essential components of all radio equipment.[2]


The first antennas were built in 1888 by German physicist Heinrich Hertz in his pioneering experiments to prove the existence of waves predicted by the electromagnetic theory of James Clerk Maxwell. Hertz placed dipole antennas at the focal point of parabolic reflectors for both transmitting and receiving.[3] Starting in 1895, Guglielmo Marconi began development of antennas practical for long-distance, wireless telegraphy, for which he received a Nobel Prize.[4]

Antenna may refer broadly to an entire assembly including support structure, enclosure (if any), etc., in addition to the actual RF current-carrying components. A receiving antenna may include not only the passive metal receiving elements, but also an integrated preamplifier or mixer, especially at and above microwave frequencies.

The dipole antenna, which is the basis for most antenna designs, is a balanced component, with equal but opposite voltages and currents applied at its two terminals. The vertical antenna is a monopole antenna, not balanced with respect to ground. The ground (or any large conductive surface) plays the role of the second conductor of a dipole. Since monopole antennas rely on a conductive surface, they may be mounted with a ground plane to approximate the effect of being mounted on the Earth's surface.

A phased array consists of two or more simple antennas which are connected together through an electrical network. This often involves a number of parallel dipole antennas with a certain spacing. Depending on the relative phase introduced by the network, the same combination of dipole antennas can operate as a "broadside array" (directional normal to a line connecting the elements) or as an "end-fire array" (directional along the line connecting the elements). Antenna arrays may employ any basic (omnidirectional or weakly directional) antenna type, such as dipole, loop or slot antennas. These elements are often identical.

Even greater directionality can be obtained using aperture antennas such as the parabolic reflector or horn antenna. Since high directivity in an antenna depends on it being large compared to the wavelength, highly directional antennas (thus with high antenna gain) become more practical at higher frequencies (UHF and above).

At low frequencies (such as AM broadcast), arrays of vertical towers are used to achieve directionality[10] and they will occupy large areas of land. For reception, a long Beverage antenna can have significant directivity. For non directional portable use, a short vertical antenna or small loop antenna works well, with the main design challenge being that of impedance matching. With a vertical antenna a loading coil at the base of the antenna may be employed to cancel the reactive component of impedance; small loop antennas are tuned with parallel capacitors for this purpose.

An antenna counterpoise, or ground plane, is a structure of conductive material which improves or substitutes for the ground. It may be connected to or insulated from the natural ground. In a monopole antenna, this aids in the function of the natural ground, particularly where variations (or limitations) of the characteristics of the natural ground interfere with its proper function. Such a structure is normally connected to the return connection of an unbalanced transmission line such as the shield of a coaxial cable.

An electromagnetic wave refractor in some aperture antennas is a component which due to its shape and position functions to selectively delay or advance portions of the electromagnetic wavefront passing through it. The refractor alters the spatial characteristics of the wave on one side relative to the other side. It can, for instance, bring the wave to a focus or alter the wave front in other ways, generally in order to maximize the directivity of the antenna system. This is the radio equivalent of an optical lens.

An antenna coupling network is a passive network (generally a combination of inductive and capacitive circuit elements) used for impedance matching in between the antenna and the transmitter or receiver. This may be used to minimize losses on the feed line, by reducing transmission line's standing wave ratio, and to present the transmitter or receiver with a standard resistive impedance needed for its optimum operation. The feed point location(s) is selected, and antenna elements electrically similar to tuner components may be incorporated in the antenna structure itself, to improve the match.

It is a fundamental property of antennas that most of the electrical characteristics of an antenna, such as those described in the next section (e.g. gain, radiation pattern, impedance, bandwidth, resonant frequency and polarization), are the same whether the antenna is transmitting or receiving.[11][12] For example, the "receiving pattern" (sensitivity to incomming signals as a function of direction) of an antenna when used for reception is identical to the radiation pattern of the antenna when it is driven and functions as a radiator, even though the current and voltage distributions on the antenna itself are different for receiving and sending.[13] This is a consequence of the reciprocity theorem of electromagnetics.[12] Therefore, in discussions of antenna properties no distinction is usually made between receiving and transmitting terminology, and the antenna can be viewed as either transmitting or receiving, whichever is more convenient.

A necessary condition for the aforementioned reciprocity property is that the materials in the antenna and transmission medium are linear and reciprocal. Reciprocal (or bilateral) means that the material has the same response to an electric current or magnetic field in one direction, as it has to the field or current in the opposite direction. Most materials used in antennas meet these conditions, but some microwave antennas use high-tech components such as isolators and circulators, made of nonreciprocal materials such as ferrite.[11][12] These can be used to give the antenna a different behavior on receiving than it has on transmitting,[11] which can be useful in applications like radar.

The majority of antenna designs are based on the resonance principle. This relies on the behaviour of moving electrons, which reflect off surfaces where the dielectric constant changes, in a fashion similar to the way light reflects when optical properties change. In these designs, the reflective surface is created by the end of a conductor, normally a thin metal wire or rod, which in the simplest case has a feed point at one end where it is connected to a transmission line. The conductor, or element, is aligned with the electrical field of the desired signal, normally meaning it is perpendicular to the line from the antenna to the source (or receiver in the case of a broadcast antenna).[14]

The quarter-wave elements imitate a series-resonant electrical element due to the standing wave present along the conductor. At the resonant frequency, the standing wave has a current peak and voltage node (minimum) at the feed. In electrical terms, this means that at that position, the element has minimum impedance magnitude, generating the maximum current for minimum voltage. This is the ideal situation, because it produces the maximum output for the minimum input, producing the highest possible efficiency. Contrary to an ideal (lossless) series-resonant circuit, a finite resistance remains (corresponding to the relatively small voltage at the feed-point) due to the antenna's resistance to radiating, as well as any conventional electrical losses from producing heat.

Recall that a current will reflect when there are changes in the electrical properties of the material. In order to efficiently transfer the received signal into the transmission line, it is important that the transmission line has the same impedance as its connection point on the antenna, otherwise some of the signal will be reflected backwards into the body of the antenna; likewise part of the transmitter's signal power will be reflected back to transmitter, if there is a change in electrical impedance where the feedline joins the antenna. This leads to the concept of impedance matching, the design of the overall system of antenna and transmission line so the impedance is as close as possible, thereby reducing these losses. Impedance matching is accomplished by a circuit called an antenna tuner or impedance matching network between the transmitter and antenna. The impedance match between the feedline and antenna is measured by a parameter called the standing wave ratio (SWR) on the feedline.

Consider a half-wave dipole designed to work with signals with wavelength 1 m, meaning the antenna would be approximately 50 cm from tip to tip. If the element has a length-to-diameter ratio of 1000, it will have an inherent impedance of about 63 ohms resistive. Using the appropriate transmission wire or balun, we match that resistance to ensure minimum signal reflection. Feeding that antenna with a current of 1 Ampere will require 63 Volts, and the antenna will radiate 63 Watts (ignoring losses) of radio frequency power. Now consider the case when the antenna is fed a signal with a wavelength of 1.25 m; in this case the current induced by the signal would arrive at the antenna's feedpoint out-of-phase with the signal, causing the net current to drop while the voltage remains the same. Electrically this appears to be a very high impedance. The antenna and transmission line no longer have the same impedance, and the signal will be reflected back into the antenna, reducing output. This could be addressed by changing the matching system between the antenna and transmission line, but that solution only works well at the new design frequency. 041b061a72

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