An antenna works best when its physical size corresponds to a quantity known as theantenna’s electrical size. The electrical size of an antenna depends on the wavelength of the radio waves being sent or received. An antenna radiates energy most efficientlywhen its length is a particular fraction of the intended wavelength. When the length of an antenna is a major fraction of the corresponding wavelength (a quarter-wavelengthor half-wavelength is often used), the radio waves oscillating back and forth along theantenna will encounter each other in such a way that the wave crests do not interferewith one another. The waves will resonate, or be in harmony, and will then radiate fromthe antenna with the greatest efficiency.
Antennas come in a wide variety of shapes. One of the simplest types of antennas iscalled a dipole. A dipole is made of two lengths of metal, each of which is attached toone of two wires leading to a radio or other communications device. The two lengths of metal are usually arranged end to end, with the cable from the transmitter or receiver feeding each length of the dipole in the middle. The dipoles can be adjusted to form astraight line or a V-shape to enhance reception. Each length of metal in the dipole isusually a quarter-wavelength long, so that the combined length of the dipole from endto end is a half-wavelength. The familiar “rabbit-ear” antenna on top of a television setis a dipole antenna.
Directivity is an important quality of an antenna. It describes how well an antennaconcentrates, or bunches, radio waves in a given direction. A dipole transmits or receives most of its energy at right angles to the lengths of metal, while little energy istransferred along them. If the dipole is mounted vertically, as is common, it will radiatewaves away from the center of the antenna in all directions. However, for a commercialradio or television station, a transmitting antenna is often designed to concentrate theradiated energy in certain directions and suppress it in others. For instance, severaldipoles can be used together if placed close to one another. Such an arrangement iscalled a multiple-element antenna, which is also known as an array. By properlyarranging the separate elements and by properly feeding signals to the elements, the broadcast waves can be more efficiently concentrated toward an intended audience,without, for example, wasting broadcast signals over uninhabited areas.The elements used in an array are usually all of the same type. Some arrays havethe ability to move, or scan, the main beam in different directions. Such arrays areusually referred to as scanning arrays.Arrays are usually electrically large and have better directivity than singleelement antennas. Since their directivity is large, arrays can capture and deliver to thereceiver a larger amount of power.
The Dipole Antenna Parameter
There are several critical parameters that affect an Dipole antenna's performance andcan be adjusted during the design process. These are resonant frequency, impedance, gain,aperture or radiation pattern, polarization, efficiency and bandwidth. Transmit antennas mayalso have a maximum power rating, and receive antennas differ in their noise rejection properties.