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Module 10 - Introduction to Wave Propagation, Transmission Lines, and Antennas

Navy Electricity and Electronics Training Series (NEETS)
Chapter 4:  Pages 4-1 through 4-10

Module 10 - Introduction to Wave Propagation, Transmission Lines, and Antennas

Pages i, 1-1, 1-11, 1-21, 1-31, 1-41, 2-1, 2-11, 2-21, 2-31, 2-40, 3-1, 3-11, 3-21, 3-31, 3-41, 3-51, 4-1, 4-11, 4-21, 4-31, 4-41, 4-51, Index


Chapter 4




Learning Objectives


Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:


1.   State the basic principles of antenna radiation and list the parts of an antenna.


2.   Explain current and voltage distribution on an antenna.


3.   Describe how electromagnetic energy is radiated from an antenna.


4.   Explain polarization, gain, and radiation resistance characteristics of an antenna.


5.   Describe the theory of operation of half- wave and quarter-wave antennas.


6.   List the various array antennas.


7.   Describe the directional array antennas presented and explain the basic operation of each.


8.   Identify various special antennas presented, such as long-wire, V, rhombic, turnstile, ground-plane, and corner-reflector; describe the operation of each.


9.   List safety precautions when working aloft and around antennas.




If you had been around in the early days of electronics, you would have considered an Antenna (AERIAL) to be little more than a piece of wire strung between two trees or upright poles. In those days, technicians assumed that longer antennas automatically provided better reception than shorter antennas. They also believed that a mysterious MEDIUM filled all space, and that an antenna used this medium to send and receive its energy. These two assumptions have since been discarded. Modern antennas have evolved to the point that highly directional, specially designed antennas are used to relay worldwide communications in space through the use of satellites and Earth station antennas (fig. 4-1). Present transmission theories are based on the assumption that space itself is the only medium necessary to propagate (transmit) radio energy.





Satellite/earth station communications system - RF Cafe

Figure 4-1. - Satellite/earth station communications system.


A tremendous amount of knowledge and information has been gained about the design of antennas and radio-wave propagation. Still, many old-time technicians will tell you that when it comes to designing the length of an antenna, the best procedure is to perform all calculations and try out the antenna. If it doesn't work right, use a cut-and-try method until it does. Fortunately, enough information has been collected over the last few decades that it is now possible to predict the behavior of antennas. This chapter will discuss and explain the basic design and operation of antennas.


Principles of Antenna Radiation


After an RF signal has been generated in a transmitter, some means must be used to radiate this signal through space to a receiver. The device that does this job is the antenna. The transmitter signal energy is sent into space by a TRANSMITTING Antenna; the RF signal is then picked up from space by a RECEIVING Antenna.


The RF energy is transmitted into space in the form of an electromagnetic field. As the traveling electromagnetic field arrives at the receiving antenna, a voltage is induced into the antenna (a conductor). The RF voltages induced into the receiving antenna are then passed into the receiver and converted back into the transmitted RF information.


The design of the antenna system is very important in a transmitting station. The antenna must be able to radiate efficiently so the power supplied by the transmitter is not wasted. An efficient transmitting antenna must have exact dimensions. The dimensions are determined by the transmitting frequencies. The dimensions of the receiving antenna are not critical for relatively low radio frequencies. However, as the frequency of the signal being received increases, the design and installation of the receiving antenna become more critical. An example of this is a television receiving antenna. If you raise it a few more inches from the ground or give a slight turn in direction, you can change a snowy blur into a clear picture.




The conventional antenna is a conductor, or system of conductors, that radiates or intercepts electromagnetic wave energy. An ideal antenna has a definite length and a uniform diameter, and is completely isolated in space. However, this ideal antenna is not realistic. Many factors make the design of an antenna for a communications system a more complex problem than you would expect. These factors include the height of the radiator above the earth, the conductivity of the earth below it, and the shape and dimensions of the antenna. All of these factors affect the radiated-field pattern of the antenna in space. Another problem in antenna design is that the radiation pattern of the antenna must be directed between certain angles in a horizontal or vertical plane, or both.


Most practical transmitting antennas are divided into two basic classifications, Hertz (half-wave) Antennas and MARCONI (quarter-wave) Antennas. Hertz antennas are generally installed some distance above the ground and are positioned to radiate either vertically or horizontally. Marconi antennas operate with one end grounded and are mounted perpendicular to the Earth or to a surface acting as a ground. Hertz antennas are generally used for frequencies above 2 megahertz. Marconi antennas are used for frequencies below 2 megahertz and may be used at higher frequencies in certain applications.


a complete antenna system consists of three parts: (1) The Coupling DEVICE, (2) the FEEDER, and (3) the Antenna, as shown in figure 4-2. The coupling device (coupling coil) connects the transmitter to the feeder. The feeder is a transmission line that carries energy to the antenna. The antenna radiates this energy into space.


Typical antenna system - RF Cafe

Figure 4-2. - Typical antenna system.


The factors that determine the type, size, and shape of the antenna are (1) the frequency of operation of the transmitter, (2) the amount of power to be radiated, and (3) the general direction of the receiving set. Typical antennas are shown in figure 4-3.





Typical antennas - RF Cafe

 Figure 4-3. - Typical antennas.


CURRENT and Voltage DIsTRIBUTION ON an Antenna


A current flowing in a wire whose length is properly related to the RF produces an electro magnetic field. This field is radiated from the wire and is set free in space. We will discuss how these waves are set free later in this chapter. Remember, the principles of radiation of electromagnetic energy are based on two laws:






In space, these two fields will be in phase and perpendicular to each other at any given time. Although a conductor is usually considered present when a moving electric or magnetic field is mentioned, the laws that govern these fields say nothing about a conductor. Therefore, these laws hold true whether a conductor is present or not.




Figure 4-4 shows the current and voltage distribution on a half-wave (Hertz) antenna. In view A, a piece of wire is cut in half and attached to the terminals of a high-frequency ac generator. The frequency of the generator is set so that each half of the wire is 1/4 wavelength of the output. The result is a common type of antenna known as a DIPOLE.


Current and voltage distribution on an antenna - RF Cafe

Figure 4-4. - Current and voltage distribution on an antenna.


At a given time the right side of the generator is positive and the left side negative. Remember that like charges repel. Because of this, electrons will flow away from the negative terminal as far as possible, but will be attracted to the positive terminal. View B shows the direction and distribution of electron flow. The distribution curve shows that most current flows in the center and none flows at the ends. The current distribution over the antenna will always be the same no matter how much or how little current is flowing. However, current at any given point on the antenna will vary directly with the amount of voltage developed by the generator.


One-quarter cycle after electrons have begun to flow, the generator will develop its maximum voltage and the current will decrease to 0. At that time the condition shown in view C will exist. No current will be flowing, but a maximum number of electrons will be at the left end of the line and a minimum number at the right end. The charge distribution view C along the wire will vary as the voltage of the generator varies. Therefore, you may draw the following conclusions:




1.  a current flows in the antenna with an amplitude that varies with the generator voltage.


2.  a sinusoidal distribution of charge exists on the antenna. Every 1/2 cycle, the charges reverse polarity.


3.  The sinusoidal variation in charge magnitude lags the sinusoidal variation in current by 1/4 cycle.


Q1.   What are the two basic classifications of antennas?


Q2.   What are the three parts of a complete antenna system?


Q3.   What three factors determine the type, size, and shape of an antenna?


Radiation of ELECTROMagnetic ENERGY


The electromagnetic radiation from an antenna is made up of two components, the E field and the H field. We discussed these fields in chapters 1 and 2. The two fields occur 90 degrees out of phase with each other. These fields add and produce a single electromagnetic field. The total energy in the radiated wave remains constant in space except for some absorption of energy by the Earth. However, as the wave advances, the energy spreads out over a greater area and, at any given point, decreases as the distance increases.


Various factors in the antenna circuit affect the radiation of these waves. In figure 4-5, for example, if an alternating current is applied at the a end of the length of wire from a to B, the wave will travel along the wire until it reaches the B end. Since the B end is free, an open circuit exists and the wave cannot travel farther. This is a point of high impedance. The wave bounces back (reflects) from this point of high impedance and travels toward the starting point, where it is again reflected. The energy of the wave would be gradually dissipated by the resistance of the wire of this back-and-forth motion (oscillation); however, each time it reaches the starting point, the wave is reinforced by an amount sufficient to replace the energy lost. This results in continuous oscillations of energy along the wire and a high voltage at the a end of the wire. These oscillations are applied to the antenna at a rate equal to the frequency of the RF voltage.


Antenna and RF source - RF Cafe

Figure 4-5. - Antenna and RF source.


These impulses must be properly timed to sustain oscillations in the antenna. The rate at which the waves travel along the wire is constant at approximately 300,000,000 meters per second. The length of




the antenna must be such that a wave will travel from one end to the other and back again during the period of 1 cycle of the RF voltage. Remember, the distance a wave travels during the period of 1 cycle is known as the wavelength and is found by dividing the rate of travel by the frequency.


Look at the current and voltage (charge) distribution on the antenna in figure 4-6. a maximum movement of electrons is in the center of the antenna at all times; therefore, the center of the antenna is at a low impedance. This condition is called a Standing WAVE of current. The points of high current and high voltage are known as current and voltage LoopS. The points of minimum current and minimum voltage are known as current and voltage NODES. View a shows a current loop and current nodes. View B shows voltage loops and a voltage node. View C shows the resultant voltage and current loops and nodes. The presence of standing waves describes the condition of resonance in an antenna. At resonance the waves travel back and forth in the antenna reinforcing each other and the electromagnetic waves are transmitted into space at maximum radiation. When the antenna is not at resonance, the waves tend to cancel each other and lose energy in the form of heat.


Standing waves of voltage and current on an antenna - RF Cafe

Figure 4-6. - Standing waves of voltage and current on an antenna.


Q4.   If a wave travels exactly the length of an antenna from one end to the other and back during the period of 1 cycle, what is the length of the antenna?




Q5.   What is the term used to identify the points of high current and high voltage on an antenna?


Q6.   What is the term used to identify the points of minimum current and minimum voltage on an antenna?


Antenna Characteristics


You can define an antenna as a conductor or group of conductors used either for radiating electromagnetic energy into space or for collecting it from space. Electrical energy from the transmitter is converted into electromagnetic energy by the antenna and radiated into space. On the receiving end, electromagnetic energy is converted into electrical energy by the antenna and is fed into the receiver.


Fortunately, separate antennas seldom are required for both transmitting and receiving RF energy. Any antenna can transfer energy from space to its input receiver with the same efficiency that it transfers energy from the transmitter into space. Of course, this is assuming that the same frequency is used in both cases. This property of interchangeability of the same antenna for transmitting and receiving is known as antenna RECIPROCITY. Antenna reciprocity is possible because antenna characteristics are essentially the same for sending and receiving electromagnetic energy.




In general, the various properties of an antenna apply equally, regardless of whether you use the antenna for transmitting or receiving. The more efficient a certain antenna is for transmitting, the more efficient it will be for receiving on the same frequency. Likewise, the directive properties of a given antenna also will be the same whether it is used for transmitting or receiving.


Assume, for example, that a certain antenna used with a transmitter radiates a maximum amount of energy at right angles to the axis of the antenna, as shown in figure 4-7, view A. Note the minimum amount of radiation along the axis of the antenna. Now, if this same antenna were used as a receiving antenna, as shown in view B, it would receive best in the same directions in which it produced maximum radiation; that is, at right angles to the axis of the antenna.





Reciprocity of antennas - RF Cafe

 Figure 4-7. - Reciprocity of antennas.

Antenna Gain


Another characteristic of a given antenna that remains the same whether the antenna is used for transmitting or receiving is Gain. Some antennas are highly directional that is, more energy is propagated in certain directions than in others. The ratio between the amount of energy propagated in these directions compared to the energy that would be propagated if the antenna were not directional is known as its gain. When a transmitting antenna with a certain gain is used as a receiving antenna, it will also have the same gain for receiving.




Let's review polarization briefly. In chapter 2 you learned that the radiation field is composed of electric and magnetic lines of force. These lines of force are always at right angles to each other. Their intensities rise and fall together, reaching their maximums 90 degrees apart. The electric field determines the direction of polarization of the wave. In a vertically polarized wave, the electric lines of force lie in a vertical direction. In a horizontally polarized wave, the electric lines of force lie in a horizontal direction. Circular polarization has the electric lines of force rotating through 360 degrees with every cycle of RF energy.


The electric field was chosen as the reference field because the intensity of the wave is usually measured in terms of the electric field intensity (volts, millivolts, or microvolts per meter). When a single-wire antenna is used to extract energy from a passing radio wave, maximum pickup will result when the antenna is oriented in the same direction as the electric field. Thus a vertical antenna is used for the efficient reception of vertically polarized waves, and a horizontal antenna is used for the reception of horizontally polarized waves. In some cases the orientation of the electric field does not remain constant.




Instead, the field rotates as the wave travels through space. Under these conditions both horizontal and vertical components of the field exist and the wave is said to have an elliptical polarization.


Q7.   The various properties of a transmitting antenna can apply equally to the same antenna when it is used as a receiving antenna. What term is used for this property?


Q8.   The direction of what field is used to designate the polarization of a wave?


Q9.   If a wave's electric lines of force rotate through 360 degrees with every cycle of RF energy, what is the polarization of this wave?


Polarization Requirements for Various Frequencies


Ground-wave transmission is widely used at medium and low frequencies. Horizontal polarization cannot be used at these frequencies because the electric lines of force are parallel to and touch the earth. Since the earth acts as a fairly good conductor at low frequencies, it would short out the horizontal electric lines of force and prevent the radio wave from traveling very far. Vertical electric lines of force, on the other hand, are bothered very little by the earth. Therefore vertical polarization is used for ground-wave transmission, allowing the radio wave to travel a considerable distance along the ground surface with minimum attenuation.


Sky-wave transmission is used at high frequencies. Either horizontal or vertical polarization can be used with sky-wave transmission because the sky wave arrives at the receiving antenna elliptically polarized. This is the result of the wave traveling obliquely through the Earth's magnetic field and striking the ionosphere. The radio wave is given a twisting motion as it strikes the ionosphere. Its orientation continues to change because of the unstable nature of the ionosphere. The relative amplitudes and phase differences between the horizontal and vertical components of the received wave also change. Therefore, the transmitting and receiving antennas can be mounted either horizontally or vertically.


Although either horizontally or vertically polarized antennas can be used for high frequencies, horizontally polarized antennas have certain advantages and are therefore preferred. One advantage is that vertically polarized interference signals, such as those produced by automobile ignition systems and electrical appliances, are minimized by horizontal polarization. Also, less absorption of radiated energy by buildings or wiring occurs when these antennas are used. Another advantage is that support structures for these antennas are of more convenient size than those for vertically polarized antennas.


For frequencies in the vhf or uhf range, either horizontal or vertical polarization is satisfactory. These radio waves travel directly from the transmitting antenna to the receiving antenna without entering the ionosphere. The original polarization produced at the transmitting antenna is maintained throughout the entire travel of the wave to the receiver. Therefore, if a horizontally polarized antenna is used for transmitting, a horizontally polarized antenna must be used for receiving. The requirements would be the same for a vertical transmitting and receiving antenna system.


For satellite communications, parallel frequencies can be used without interference by using polarized radiation. The system setup is shown in figure 4-8. One pair of satellite antennas is vertically polarized and another pair is horizontally polarized. Either vertically or horizontally polarized transmissions are received by the respective antenna and retransmitted in the same polarization. For example, transmissions may be made in the 3.7 to 3.74 GHz range on the vertical polarization path and in the 3.72 to 3.76 GHz range on the horizontal polarization path without adjacent frequency (co-channel) interference. 


NEETS Modules
- Matter, Energy, and Direct Current
- Alternating Current and Transformers
- Circuit Protection, Control, and Measurement
- Electrical Conductors, Wiring Techniques, and Schematic Reading
- Generators and Motors
- Electronic Emission, Tubes, and Power Supplies
- Solid-State Devices and Power Supplies
- Amplifiers
- Wave-Generation and Wave-Shaping Circuits
- Wave Propagation, Transmission Lines, and Antennas
- Microwave Principles
- Modulation Principles
- Introduction to Number Systems and Logic Circuits
- - Introduction to Microelectronics
- Principles of Synchros, Servos, and Gyros
- Introduction to Test Equipment
- Radio-Frequency Communications Principles
- Radar Principles
- The Technician's Handbook, Master Glossary
- Test Methods and Practices
- Introduction to Digital Computers
- Magnetic Recording
- Introduction to Fiber Optics
Note: Navy Electricity and Electronics Training Series (NEETS) content is U.S. Navy property in the public domain.
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