Summarized electromagnetic wave propagation lecture from Electronic Communications System by Tomasi

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Summarized electromagnetic wave propagation lecture from Electronic Communications System by Tomasi

© All Rights Reserved

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Electromagnetic wave is electrical energy that has escaped into free space.

Electromagnetic waves can travel in a straight line at approximately the speed of light and

are made up of magnetic and electric fields that are at right angles to each other and at

right angles to direction of propagation.

Essential properties of radio waves:

1. Frequency

2. Intensity

3. Direction of travel

4. Plane of polarization

Polarization of a plane electromagnetic wave is simply the orientation of the electric

field vector in respect to the surface of the Earth. If polarization remains constant, it is

described as linear polarization. Horizontal and vertical polarizations are two forms of

linear polarization. If the electric field is propagating parallel to the Earths surface, the

wave is said to be horizontally polarized. If the electric field is propagating perpendicular

to the Earths surface, the wave is said to be vertically polarized. If the polarization vector

rotates 360 as the wave moves one wavelength through space and the field strength is

equal at all angles of polarization, the wave is described as having circular polarization.

When the field strength varies with changes in polarization, this is described as elliptical

polarization.

A rotating wave can turn in either direction. If the vector rotates in clockwise

direction, it is right handed, and if the vector rotates in counter clock wise direction, it is

considered left handed.

ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION

Radio waves are electromagnetic waves simply because they are made up of an

electric and a magnetic field. The magnetic field is and invisible force field produced by a

magnet such as a conductor when current is flowing through it. Magnetic fields are

continuous; however, it is standard for performing calculations and measurements to

represent a magnetic field with individual lines of force. The strength of a magnetic field

(H) produced around a conductor (such as a wire or an antenna) is expressed

mathematically as

where H = magnetic field (ampere turns per meter)

d = distance wire (meters)

Electric fields are also invisible force fields produced by a difference in voltage

potential between two conductors. Electric field strength (E) is expressed mathematically

as

where E = electric field strength (volts per meter)

q = charge between conductors (coulombs)

= permittivity (farads per meter)

d = distance between conductors (meters)

Permittivity is the dielectric constant of the material separating the two conductors.

The permittivity of air or free space is approximately 8.85x10

-12

F/m.

POWER DENSITY AND FIELD STRENGTH

The rate at which energy passes through a given surface area in free space is called

power density. Therefore, power density is energy per unit time per unit of area and is

usually given in watts per square meter. Field intensity is the intensity of the electric and

magnetic fields of an electromagnetic wave propagating in free space. Electric field

intensity is usually given in volts per meter and magnetic field intensity in ampere turns

per meter (At/m). Mathematically, power density is

where P = power density (watts per meter squared)

rms electric field intensity (volts per meter)

rms magnetic field intensity (ampere turns per meter)

CHARACTERISTIC IMPEDANCE OF FREE SPACE

The electric and magnetic field intensities of an electromagnetic wave in free space are

related through the characteristic impedance (resistance) of free space. The characteristic

impedance of a lossless transmission medium is equal to the square root of the ratio of its

magnetic permeability to its electric permittivity. Mathematically, the characteristic

impedance of free space (Zs) is

where Zs = characteristic impedance of free space (ohms)

o = magnetic permeability of free space (1.26 x 10

-6

H/m)

o = electric permittivity of free space (8.85 x 10

-12

F/m)

Substituting the values of o and o into the equation will yield Zs 377

Using Ohms law, we obtain

377

377

377

OPTICAL PROPERTIES OF RADIO WAVES

Refraction

Refraction is the changing of direction of an electromagnetic ray as it passes

obliquely from one medium into another with different atmosphere; energy is transferred

from one medium into another with different velocities of propagation.

The velocity at which an electromagnetic wave propagates is inversely proportional

to the density of the medium in which it is propagating. Therefore, refraction occurs

whenever a radio wave passes from one medium to another medium of different density.

Refraction of electromagnetic waves can be expressed in terms of refractive index of the

atmosphere it is passing through. Refractive index is the square root of the dielectric

constant and is expressed mathematically as

where n = the refractive index (unitless)

k = equivalent dielectric constant relative to free space (vacuum)

and

where N = number of electrons per cubic meter

f = frequency (kHz)

Whenever a ray passes from a less dense to a denser medium, it is effectively bent

toward the normal. Conversely when a ray passes from a more dense to a less dense

medium, it is effectively bent away from the normal. The angle of incidence is the angle

formed between the incident wave and the normal, and the angle of refraction is the angle

formed between the refracted wave and the normal.

The amount of bending or refraction that occurs at the interface of two materials of

different densities is quite predictable and depends on the refractive index (also called

index of refraction) of the two materials. The refractive index is simply the ratio of the

velocity of propagation of a light ray in free space to the velocity of propagation of a light

ray in a given material. Mathematically, the refractive index is

where n = refractive index (unit less)

c = speed of light in free space (3 x 10

8

m/s)

v = speed of light in a given material (meters per second)

How an electromagnetic wave reacts when it meets the interface of two

transmissive materials that have different indexes of refraction can be explained with

Snells law, which simply states that

sin

sin

sin

sin

where n1 = refractive index of material 1

n2 = refractive index of material 2

1 = angle of incidence (degrees)

2 = angle of refraction (degrees)

The refractive index of a material is equal to the square root of its dielectric

constant,

sin

sin

where r1 = dielectric constant of medium 1

r2 = dielectric constant of medium 2

Reflection

Reflect means to cast or turn back and reflection is the act of reflecting.

Electromagnetic reflection occurs when an incident wave strikes a boundary of two media

and some or all o the incident power does not enter the second material.

Diffraction

Diffraction is defined as the modulation or redistribution of energy within a

wavefront when it passes near the edge of an opaque object. Diffraction is the phenomenon

that allows light or radio waves to propagate around corners. When a wavefront passes

near an obstacle or discontinuity with dimensions comparable in size to a wavelength,

simple geometric analysis cannot be used to explain the results and Huygens principle is

necessary.

Huygens principle states that every point on a given spherical wavefront can be

considered as a secondary point source of electromagnetic waves from which other

secondary waves (wavelets) are radiated outward.

Consequently, the wavefront spreads out, or scatters. This scattering effect is called

diffraction. Diffraction occurs around the edge of an obstacle, which allows secondary

waves to sneak around the corner of the obstacle into what is called the shadow zone.

Interference

Interfere means to come into opposition and interference is the act of interfering.

Radio wave interference occurs when two or more electromagnetic wave combine in such a

way that system performance is degraded. Interference is subjected to the principle of

linear superposition of electromagnetic waves and occurs whenever two or more waves

simultaneously occupy the same point in space. The principle of linear superposition states

that the total voltage intensity at a given point in space is the sum of the individual wave

vectors.

TERRESTRIAL PROPAGATION OF ELECTROMAGNETIC WAVES

Electromagnetic waves travelling within Earths atmosphere are called terrestrial

waves and communications between two or more points on Earth is called terrestrial radio

communications. Terrestrial waves are influenced by the atmosphere and Earth itself. In

terrestrial radio communications, electromagnetic waves can be propagated in several

ways, depending on the type of system and the environment. Essentially there are three

ways of propagating electromagnetic waves within Earths atmosphere: ground wave,

space wave and sky wave propagation.

Surface Wave Propagation

A surface wave is an Earth-guided electromagnetic wave that travels over the

surface of Earth. As a surface wave moves over Earths surface, it is accompanied by

charges induced in the Earth. The charges move with the wave, producing current. Since

the Earth offers resistance to the flow of current, energy is dissipated in a manner very

similar to those in a transmission line. Earths surface also has dielectric losses. Therefore,

surface waves are attenuated as they propagate.

Surface wave propagation is commonly used for ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore

communications, for radio navigation, and for maritime mobile communications. Surface

waves are used at frequencies as low as 15 kHz.

The disadvantages of surface waves:

Ground waves require a relatively high transmission power.

Ground waves are limited to very low, low and medium frequencies requiring large

antennas.

Ground losses vary considerably with surface material and composition.

The advantages of ground wave propagation are as follows:

Given enough transmit power; ground waves can be used to communicate between

any two locations in the world.

Ground waves are relatively unaffected by changing atmospheric conditions.

Space Wave Propagation

Space wave propagation of electromagnetic energy includes radiated energy that

travels in the lower few miles of Earths atmosphere. Space waves include both direct and

ground reflected waves. Direct waves travel essentially in a straight line between the

transmit and receive antennas. Space wave propagation with direct waves is commonly

called line-of-sight transmission. Therefore, direct space wave propagation is limited by the

curvature of the Earth. Ground-reflected waves are waves reflected by Earths surface as

they propagate between transmit and receive antennas.

The curvature of Earth presents a horizon to space wave propagation commonly

called the radio horizon. Because of the atmospheric refraction, the radio horizon extends

beyond optical horizon for the common standard atmosphere.

The line-of-sight radio horizon for a single antenna at sea level is given as

where d = distance of radio horizon (miles)

h = antenna height above sea level (feet)

The distance between the two antennas at sea level is

where d = total distance (miles)

dt = radio horizon for transmit antenna (miles)

dr = radio horizon for receive antenna (miles)

ht = transmit antenna height (feet)

hr = receive antenna height (feet)

The maximum distance between a transmitter and a receiver over average terrain

can be approximated in metric units by the following equation:

7

where d = total distance (kilometers)

ht = transmit antenna height (meters)

hr = receive antenna height (meters)

Sky Wave Propagation

PROPAGATION TERMS AND DEFINITIONS

Critical Frequency and Critical Angle

Frequencies above the UHF range are virtually unaffected by the ionosphere

because of their extremely short wavelengths. At these frequencies, the distances between

ions are appreciable large and consequently, the electromagnetic waves pass through them

with little noticeable effect. Therefore, it stands to reason that there must be an upper

frequency limit for sky wave propagation. Critical frequency (fc) is the highest frequency

that can be propagated directly upward and still be returned to Earth by the ionosphere.

The critical frequency depends on the ionization density and therefore, varies with the time

of day and season.

Critical angle is the maximum vertical angle at which at which a given frequency can

be propagated and still refracted by the ionosphere.

Virtual Height

Virtual height is the height above Earths surface from which a refracted wave

appears to have been reflected.

Maximum Usable Frequency

The maximum usable frequency (MUF) is the highest frequency that can be used for

sky wave propagation between two specific points on Earths surface. MUF, as with the

critical frequency, is a limiting frequency for sky wave propagation. However, the

maximum usable frequency is for a specific angle of incidence. Mathematically, MUF is

cos

where i is the angle of incidence.

Because of the general instability of the ionosphere, the highest frequency used

between two points is often selected lower than the MUF. It has been proven that operating

at a frequency 85% of the MUF provides more reliable communications. This frequency is

sometimes called the optimum working frequency (OWF)

Skip distance and Skip Zone

Skip distance is defined as the minimum distance from transmit antenna that a sky

wave at a given frequency will be returned to Earth. The frequency must be less than the

maximum usable frequency and propagated at its critical angle.

At distances greater than the skip distance, two rays can take different paths and

still be returned to the same point on Earth. The two rays are called the lower ray and the

upper or Pedersen ray. The Pedersen ray is usually of little significance, as it tend to be

much weaker than the lower ray because it spreads over a much larger area than the lower

ray.

The area between where the surface waves are completely dissipated and the point

where the first sky wave returns to Earth is called the quiet or skip zone because in this

area there is no reception.

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