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Finite Element Antenna CAE

Finite element software offers the advantage that a wide variety of materials and geometries can be modeled, permitting analysis of diverse antennas including a coaxially fed monopole, a waveguide slot and a phased array.

John R. Brauer

The MacNeal-Schwendler Corporation Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Finite element software has extensive capabilities for modeling antennas. Using special open boundary finite elements, a wide variety of an-

tenna types can be modeled, including the coaxially-fed monopole, the waveguide slot, and a phased array. A special advantage is that numerous materials and geometries can be treated in the model.

Software for computer aided engineering (CAE) of antennas has been until now based on the Method of Moments (MoM). A popular MoM software package is NEC (Numerical Electromagnetics Code), which accurately analyzes wire antennas in air. However, many current antenna designs use materials other than wire, necessitating the use of another analytical method.

The finite clement method [1] has the capability of analyzing low frequency and high frequency electromagnetic devices of a wide range of geometries and materials. Until fairly recently, however, finite element software could not model open boundaries extending to infinity, and therefore could not analyze antennas. This problem of simulating open boundaries on finite element models can be accommodated using the ABC method. ABC finite elements have been shown to model antenna radiation to infinity without increasing the computer time ofthe finite element solution [2],[3].


Finite Element Solution

The finite element analysis software which we have developed [4], based upon the potential vector { u} made up of magnetic vector potential A and time-integrated electric scalar potential \jf, has three matrices as its analytical basis [4]:

[M]{u} + [B]{u} + [K]{u}

{P} (1)

The [M] matrix is proportional to the dielectric permittivity tensor [£] of each material. The [B] matrix is proportional to the conductivity tensor [oJ The [K] matrix is proportional to the reciprocal of the permeability tensor [.U].

While the software analyzes (1) for any static, time domain, or frequency domain excitation {P}, antenna designers usually prefer the frequency domain. For frequency f and w=2pf, Equation (1) becomes:

[- w2M + jwB + K]{u} = [F]{u} = {P} (2)

where the total matrix [F] is now complex and has contributions from all finite elements including the ABC open boundary finite elements. [F] has n rows and n columns, where n is the number of nodes in the finite element model. The nodes are the corners (and sometimes points on the edges) of the 3 dimensional CD), 2D, andlor ID finite elements that model the antenna and its surroundings.

The computer time and storage requirements increase as matrix size n (and hence the number of finite elements) increases. Usually 5 to 10 finite elements per wavelength are required in each direction of the antenna. In addition, at least one wavelength of surrounding air must be modeled to the spherical outer boundary where the ABC open boundary finite elements are placed. Hence finite element models are usually suitable only for antennas that are no larger than a few wavelengths.

Solution of equation (2) gives the potentials and fields within the finite element model. Methods exist which transform this near field information contained within the finite element model to far field information outside the model boundaries. Such methods are called near field to far field transformations. The far field quantity of interest is typically the complex electric field intensity, which is most often expressed as EO and E<I> in a spherical coordinate system. The software calculates


and plots these far fields to give the radiation pattern. Other parameters of interest, such as polarization, are also calculated and displayed by the software.

Mobile Monopole Antenna

The first example for this discussion is the analysis of a coaxially fed, loaded monopole designed for mobile communication. The inclusion ofdie1ectric materials in the design makes the finite element method preferable to MoM. The practical purpose of the analysis was to compare the antenna performance for various dielectric materials at several frequencies of operation. The critical results are the ref1ection coefficient at the coaxial feed and the far field radiation pattern.

The antenna assembly is shown in Figure 1. It consists of a 50 ohm coaxial feed with its inner conductor attached to the wire antenna and its outer conductor grounded. The wire antenna contains two straight segments connected by a helical section of 15 turns, which operates as an inductive load. Part of the antenna is embedded in a molded plastic material for mechanical rigidity and environmental protection.

Figure I. A loaded, coaxially fed cellular monopole antenna

The finite element model developed using the interactive graphical preprocessing capabilities of our program is displayed in Figure 2. The model consists of 2596 finite elements and 3959 nodes. Two dimensional axisymmetric finite elements arc used to represent the air around the antenna, the dielectric loading, and the dielectric material inside the coaxial cable. Axisymmetric line elements are used to model the ABC open boundaries, the inner and outer conductors of the coaxial cable and the lower part of the wire antenna. One dimensional line elements are used to form the upper section of the wire antenna and the helical part. The radius of the open boundary is about two wavelengths at the highest frequency. The model is analyzed for frequencies ranging from 0.8 to 1.0 GHz.



Figure 2. Finite element model developed using the interactive graphical preprocessing capabilities of the program.

The dielectric constant for the dielectric filling of the coax is 3.6, while that of the plastic material covering the wire is varied from 3.8 to 4.4. The loss tangent of this material is 0.0342. Conducting wires are given the conductivity of copper.

The excitation is a current source located at the bottom of the central conductor of the coax. A 50 ohm resistor connects the inner and outer conductors of the coax to match the coaxial line impedance.

The theta component of the computed electric field at 0.95 GHz is shown in Figure 3. Note that, as desired, the

-78.000 - 90.000


66.000 - 78.000

54.000 - 66.000

42.000 - 54.000

30.000 - 42.000

18.000 - 30.000

6.00000 - 18.000

-6.00000 - 6.00000


-18.000 - -6.00000





Figure 3. The theta component of the computed electric field at 0.95 Gllz for the loaded monopole antenna.

antenna radiates more energy horizontally than vertically. The computed radiation patterns for the five frequencies analyzed when the plastic covering has a dielectric constant of 4.4 is shown in Figure 4.

The computed values of voltage standing wave ratio (VSWR) in the coaxial feed for various dielectric constants of the plastic covering are listed in Figure 5. Depending on the frequency, the antenna designer may prefer a particular material to give lowest VSWR.

Gain (dB)

r-,--rt-,+ r+ r I I t I ' I, '""1

o 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5 5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 X M.l 9 n-o:

Theta Angle (deg); 0 = vertical, 90 = horizontal

Figure 4. Computed radiation patterns at five frequencies for the monopole when covered with a dielectric constant of 4.4.


the finite thickness slot aperture, and above the groundplane out to a radius of 2.21 from the center of the slot. ABC open boundary finite elements coat the outer surface of the air to simulate the air extending to infinity. Two dimensional elements with the conductiv-

ity of copper coat the shell of the upper waveguide wall Figure 5. VSWR computed for different plastic coverings of mobile and the shell of the finite thickness slot aperture. Twomonopole antenna. dimensional elements are also used to terminate the waveguide in a matched impedance.

Frequency GHz £-3.8 £-4.0 ,-4.2 £-4.4
.80 1.7g 1.93 2.00 2.29
.85 1.97 2.50 2.78 3.30
SO 166 2.2{) 257 2.90
.95 131 1.27 1.2' 1.31
1.00 3.30 3.)3 2.02 2.66 Slot Antenna

The second antenna analyzed is a waveguide fed slot antenna [5]. In this example, the radiation patterns obtained using our software simulation are validated against theory [6].

The slot antenna, shown in Figure 6, contains one narrow slot oriented along the broad side of the top waveguide wall and resides on an infinite groundplane. Effects of the 0.068A waveguide wall thickness are also considered in the simulation. The waveguide is excited with a TEIO mode at flfc = 1.083 where fc is the waveguide cutoff frequency.

plane of symmetry

thickness of wall at aperture == 0.55 m),

Figure 6. A waveguide fed slot antenna.

Due to the geometrical symmetry of the antenna and the field symmetry ofthe excitation, only one half of the device is modeled using approximately 7900 3D and 550 2D finite clements. A hidden line view of the finite clement mesh is shown in Figure 7. All three dimensional elements represent air; the air in the waveguide, through

ABC open - boundary elements at 2.2 ), radius

Figure 7. Hidden view of the finite element mesh for the slot antenna simulation.


The radiation pattern for an infinitely thin slot antenna is well known and has an easily defined classical solution [6]. The electric field in the E-plane is uniform at a constant radius. The electric field at a given radius in the H-plane varies as shown in Figure 8.

Electric Field (dB) at 1.8 m




· ·

· .

• I , •

............ ,. -.- -,"' ..

· .


• I I I

•••••• p ....... -p- ..... -~- ..... ~ •••••• ~.- •••

. ,



· , . . . \

• • • • I

I • • • I

••• __ •••••• __ ~ •••• __ ~._ •• _~ •• _ ••• ~. a.

• • • I I

, • • I I

: : : . : .,

.----.~.-~- .. ~-.-.--~- .. ----- .. --~-----;-

. .



-9 -6 -3 0 3 6 Theta (degrees)

9 E+01

Figure 8. Electricfield ill E-plune at a constant radius for the slot antenna.

Figure 10 is a graph of the electric field magnitude as a function of the angle e in the E and H planes at a radius of 1.95 wavelengths from the slot. The field strength in the E-plane is indeed close to uniform. The computed field strength in the H-plane is also in excellent agreement with theory. The magnitude of S 11 is computed to be -12.16 dB.

Phased Array Microwave Antenna

The final analysis example is a phased array microwave antenna. Figure 9 shows one antenna of the phased array, which is a rectangular metal waveguide operating in the fundamental TEIO mode with electric field in the y direction. The frequency is 3 GHz. The waveguide width in the x direction is 5.714 em and its length in the z direction is 12 cm. Note that a radome of relative per-

mittivity 3.0625 and thickness 2.857 em covers the waveguide opening to free space.

surrounding aIr






Figure 9. One radiating element of the phased array antenna.

The antenna cell of Figure 9 is assumed to be a member of an infinite array of geometrically identical cells placed along the x axis. The identical waveguides are all assumed to have excitations of identical amplitude, but with phase angles that are proportional to their positions along the x axis. There are also identical waveguide antennas arrayed in the y direction, but the excitation magnitudes and phases are invariant in the y direction. By varying the phase shift in the x direction, the antenna beam can be scanned (pointed) at various angles in the xz plane.

Also shown in Figure 9 is the two-dimensional finite clement model developed for one unit-cell. To absorb the beam at the maximum z boundary of Figure 9, special planewave ABC finite elements are used.

The Poynting vectors computed by our program for the model with a phase shift between cells of 70 degrees is shown in Figure 10. There is a well-known relation [7] between phase shift angle CPs (in degrees) and scan angle 8s:

sin 8s = CPs A/(360D d)

where A is the wavelength and d is the cell width, which is 5.714 cm in this case.

Using A=O.1 m in equation (3) gives a scan angle 8s of

19.895 degrees. Thus the Poynting vectors in Figure 10 appear to be in the proper direction. Finite element computations of phased array antennas will be described in two 1994 papers [8],[9].



Figure 10. Poynting vectors computedfor phased array antenna of Fig. 9, which indicate direction of energy flow from antenna.


[I] John R. Brauer (ed.), What Every Engineer Should Know About Finite Element Analysis (2nd ed.), New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1993.

[2J John R. Brauer, R. Mittra, and I-F. Lee, "Absorbing Boundary Condition for Vector and Scalar Potentials Arising in Electromagnetic Finite Element Analysis in Frequency and Time Domains," Digest ofIEEE Antennas & Propagation Society Symposium, London, Ontario, .Iune 1991.

[3] John R. Brauer, J.-F. Lee and R. Mittra, "Absorbing Boundary Condition for Three Dimensional Finite Element Models with Magnetic Vector and Time- Integrated Scalar Potentials," Digest of IEEE Antennas & Propagation Society Symposium, Chicago, July 1992.

[4J John R. Brauer and Brian S. Brown, "Mixed-Dimensional Finite Elements for Models of Electromagnetic Coupling and Shielding," IEEE Trans. on Electromagnetic Compatibility, May 1993, pp. 235- 241.


[5] John R. Brauer, Brian S. Brown and Mark M. Jenich, "ABC Finite Elements lor Open Boundary Electromagnetic Problems or Frequencies from DC to G Hz," Proc. Appl ied Computational Electromagnctics Society Conference, Monterey CA, March 22-26, 1993.

[6] Constantine A. Balanis, Antenna Theory Analysis and Design, New York: Harper & Row, 1982, p. 120.


[7] Robert J. Mailloux, Phased Array Antenna Handbook, Boston:

Artech House, 1994, p. 31.

[8] A. Frenkel, J. R. Brauer, and M. A. Gockel, "Complex Periodic Boundary Conditions for AC Finite Element Models," Applied Computational Electromagnetics Society Conference, Monterey CA, March 21-25,1994.

[9] Avraham Frenkel and John R. Brauer, "Absorbing Boundary Conditions for Finite Element Modeling of Phased Array Antennas," IEEE Antennas & Propagation Society Symposium, Seattle, June 1994.

John R. Brauer is a Senior Consulting Engineer at the i'v!acNealSchwendler Corporation, Milwaukee, WI, US4 where he develops and applies electromagnetic finite element software. Prior to this position, he was a consulting engineer with the A. 0. Smith Corporation. He received three degrees in electrical engineering: a bachelor sfrom Marquette University in 1965, and a master's and Ph.D. from the University ofWisconsin-Madison in 1966 and 1969. He is the author of over 90 technical papers and the editor of the book "What EVelY Engineer Should Know About Finite Element Analysis" (Marcel Dekker. Inc., first edition 1988 and second edition 1993).

DI: Brauer is an IEEE senior member and holds posts in the IEEE Magnetics, Power. Antennas, and Industry Applications societies. !Ie received the Memorial Awardfrom the Milwaukee Section of the IEEE in 1988j(Jr his work infinite element analysis of electromagnetic devices.

Editor's Note

The author .1' firm markets the software described in this article under the trade name MSCIEMAS.