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Microwave Journal 1996.

A Survey of Broadband Microstrip Patch Antennas

Microstrip patch antennas (MPA) have received a lot of attention in the last few
years. However, the antennas inherent narrow bandwidth is one of their major
drawbacks. This is one of the problems that researchers around the world have been
trying to overcome. This paper describes the main techniques produced to increase
the bandwidth of patch antennas. Likewise, a survey of the novel designs intended to
enhance the bandwidth of patch antennas that have been developed since the last
publication concerning MPAs is presented.
David Sanchez-Hernandez
Departmento de Communicaciones, Universidad Politcnica de Valencia
Valencia, Spain
Ian D. Robertson
MMIC Research Team, University of London
London, UK
The microstrip antenna has now reached maturity, wherein only a few mysteries about its
behavior are still undiscovered. The invention of such antennas has been attributed to several
authors, but it was certainly placed in the 1960s with the first works published by Deschamps,
Greig and Engleman, and Lewin, among others. But it was not before 1970 when the research
publications started to flow with the appearance of the first design equations. The most
important workshop was held at Las Cruces, NM in 1979. It was also at that time when the first
books on microstrip antennas were printed. As an example, Bahl and Bhartia or James, Hall
and Wood wrote two classical guidebooks that are still in use. An exhaustive handbook of
microstrip antennas has been published by James and Hall.
One of the major disadvantages of microstrip antennas is their inherent narrow bandwidth.
Throughout the years, authors have dedicated their investigations to creating new designs or
variations to the original antenna that, to some extent, produce either wider bandwidths or
multiple-frequency operation in a single element. However, most of these innovations bear
disadvantages related to the size, height or overall volume of the single element, and the
improvement in bandwidth suffers usually from a degradation of the other characteristics. It is
the purpose of this paper to introduce the general techniques produced to improve the narrow
bandwidth characteristic of patch antennas, and to provide a good reference for the variety of
broadband elements developed in the last years.

Bandwidth Enhancement Techniques

In MPAs the pattern bandwidth is usually many times larger than the impedance bandwidth
and, therefore, the discussion of bandwidth in this paper will concentrate on impedance rather
than patterns. For a single element operating at the fundamental lowest mode, the typical
bandwidth is from less than one to several percent for thin substrates. With the original patch
antenna, three ways of increasing the bandwidth exist. The first technique is simply increasing
the thickness of the substrate. However, this technique introduces various problems. A thicker
substrate will support surface waves, which will deteriorate the radiation patterns as well as
reduce the radiation efficiency. Also, problems with the feeding technique of the antenna
appear. Additionally, depending upon the z-direction, higher order modes may arise,
introducing further distortions in the pattern and impedance characteristics.
The second technique to increase bandwidth is decreasing the relative permittivity, which has
an obvious limitation based on size. The third method is by means of a wideband matching
network. However, this concept was not feasible until an impedance-matching technique was
proposed. This first impedance-matching approach was analytical. The real frequency matching
technique and the simplified real frequency technique are improved versions that followed. Yet,
the inherent complexity of these techniques is apparent. Seven main techniques have been

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found to enhance the bandwidth of patch antennas, either by obtaining a wider bandwidth or
performing a dual-band operation.

Multilayer Structures
The idea of stacking two elements came soon after the original microstrip antenna was
proposed. Thus, a stacked circular antenna was constructed using two discs etched on different
boards, feeding the lower disc by a coaxial connector through the ground plane, as shown in
Figure 1. Two distinct resonances were observed. It was found that the lower resonant
frequency was relatively steady over a range of different diameters for the upper conductor,
whereas the second resonance was highly dependent on those diameters. However, up until
1979, making a precise design was a difficult task.

Fig. 1 A stacked circular disc antenna.

It was not until 1986 that a radioelectric model was presented to
explain both the technique and the influence of the director size upon
the quadratic patch bandwidth. Since then, many theoretical studies
have been published; from experimental results with bandwidths up
to 26 percent of the center frequency f0 (SWR = 2) using either
contiguous stacked elements, to a comparison of the coaxial probe
and slot-coupling feeds. A study of multilayer MPAs with radiating
elements of various geometries was also realized, revealing some
interesting features. To obtain a lower level of cross-polar
components, it is necessary to avoid the equilateral triangular shape. A larger bandwidth may
be achieved by varying the value of the two heights and adjusting. For offset elements, a shift
in the OX and OY directions has a significant impact on both input impedance and radiation
patterns. More recently, a similar study was also completed where the influence of the parasitic
element''s size, shape and position on input impedance was investigated. In the multilayer
configuration it was found that, although offsets enable a better adjustment of coupling effects
and hence a wider bandwidth, structural asymmetry translates as some beam dispersion in the
E-plane. Consequently, two symmetrically offset parasitic elements were needed to avoid
pattern asymmetry.
One of the main applications for these dual-band multilayer structures is the global positioning
systems. However, these structures create problems in the design and manufacturing stages
along with a considerable increase in height and, therefore, are not well suited for mass

Parasitic Elements Coupled to the Main Patch

Another bandwidth enhancement technique for microstrip antennas is to incorporate parasitic
coplanar metallic strips coupled to the main patch. The idea appeared as early as 1978 with a
broadband microstrip resonator antenna, together with a design method. However, this
antenna was more like an array and, subsequently, a novel broadband microstrip antenna was
introduced using additional resonators that were gap coupled to the radiating edges of the main
patch. When the resonant lengths of the two coupled patches were different, two separate
loops appeared in the input impedance locus, and the gap widths S1 and S2 could be changed
to yield a broader bandwidth; up to 5.1 times that of a single rectangular patch antenna. The
microstrip antenna with nonradiating edges and additional resonators gave as much as four
times the bandwidth of the rectangular patch antenna, whereas for the four-edge gap-coupled
multiple resonator the figure was 6.7 times the bandwidth. Different versions of these antennas
have also been studied, such as triangular resonators, one-parasitic patch22 or a broadband
gap-coupled microstrip antenna. Another example is the lm/4 with a short circuit along the
edge, which was capacitive coupled with the radiating edge of a driven patch. This geometry
avoids the interferometer action of the two edge sources and the coupling between them. This
variation achieved 5.35 times the bandwidth of a single element. However, the significant
enlargement in size is obvious, and could be a big handicap for phased-array applications.
Although the bandwidth is increased substantially, the variations in the radiation pattern with

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frequency make the proposed antenna configuration unsuited for the applications where such
variations cannot be tolerated.

Log-periodic and Quasi-log-periodic Structures

Based on the log-periodic idea, a new design method for a wideband array was proposed in
1981.24 In this approach, the resonators are directly fed by microstrip lines in a one-layer
structure. In this structure, the low and high frequency limits of the bandwidth are set by the
largest and smallest dimensions of the structure, respectively. The quasi-log-periodic antenna
was achieved by arraying different narrow bandwidth radiators, each having its own frequency
band of operation. The main advantages are the absence of an array effect in the E-plane and
the fact that the antenna can be designed for a specified degree of matching by the proper
choice of spacing between the resonant frequencies, namely, the log-periodic expansion factor.
But a considerable part of the input power reaches the end of the feed line, which was not
terminated in an attempt to maintain the high efficiency. The effect of the open circuit was not
studied, and other options could improve the efficiency better than the open circuit.
Application of the log-periodic principles to an array involves several inherent problems, with
the constant substrate thickness as the most apparent difficulty. In this case, the substrate
thickness was kept constant, but the traveling-wave effect was not considered in the network
analysis. If more than a few elements are used, the feed end will become too long for some
elements and the performance will deteriorate. Yet, the increase in size may not justify what
this antenna can offer, and the radiation patterns also vary strongly with frequency.
The measured bandwidth for an SWR of 2.6 was 22 percent, which is an improvement of
approximately 10 times. A nine-element completely log-periodic structure was published with a
30 percent bandwidth for an SWR of 2.2 and 70 percent efficiency. In this case, the feed line
was terminated with a matched load in order to prevent reflections degrading the radiation
patterns at the edges of the frequency band. Yet, other studies for a log-periodic array of
narrow rectangular microstrip elements indicate that bandwidth at least as great as 50 percent
can be achieved. However, this technique suffers from nearly all the disadvantages of the
quasi-periodic technique. When this antenna is compared with the stacked-resonator
techniques, a bandwidth one and a half times wider than that of multilayer structures, with
efficiencies significantly higher than the values obtained with the microstrip spiral, is found.
Planar log-spiral antennas have also been developed. This kind of antenna was successfully
used in a broadband, low noise superconductor-insulator-superconductor receiver for
submillimeter astronomy.

Tuning Stubs and Loads

The reactively loaded patch technique is perhaps the most common method to enhance the
bandwidth of microstrip antennas. A practical method for the simultaneous tuning of both the
resonant frequency and reflection coefficient of microstrip antennas is the use of two tuning
stubs in a coaxially fed patch. It was discovered that the match generally degrades for
increasing stub length, which limits the practical tuning range. This problem is overcome by
using two tuning stubs positioned on opposite edges of the patch, in line with the coaxial feed
point. The patch is then tuned in an iterative manner by systematic trimming of either of the
stubs. Thin stubs allow very sensitive tuning over a limited range, while wide stubs increase the
range, but with less sensitivity. This technique allows tuning to a specific frequency and
reflection coefficient in a few iterations, with the disadvantage that the tuning is only possible
from a lower to a higher frequency owing to the destructive trimming technique. The technique
does not compensate for variations in the resonant frequency due to temperature dependence
of the substrate dielectric constant, and it may not be practical when a radome is used. In the
circular patch, stubs have also been applied to produce dual-frequency operation.
As the length of a single narrow strip was increased to 3le/4, the element was well matched
simultaneously at two different frequencies. However, the radiation patterns at these two
frequencies were quite dissimilar and good pattern performance was obtained only when two
strips were employed. Again, the overall size is increased. A similar effect can be achieved by

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loading the patch with an adjustable-length short-circuited coaxial stub,31 as shown in Figure
2. The spacing between the bands can be controlled by increasing the characteristic impedance
of the loading stub, by increasing its length or by changing the inset of the load position.
However, only one stub makes the impedances at the centers of the two bands of operation
identical, and the increase in height is considerable.

Fig. 2 A reactively loaded microstrip antenna.

Diode Use
The use of varactor diodes to perform dual-frequency operation is
another wideband technique. Two diodes are positioned
symmetrically in the patch to minimize the cross-polarization effects,
and the relationship between the power and the bias voltage level of
the varactor diodes represents a way of tuning the structure. In a
previous experiment, a tuning range of 20 percent was achieved with
a 10 V bias. The flaws of this technique are the dependence of the resonant frequencies on the
position of the diodes and, hence, the lack of versatility, along with difficulties in the
manufacturing process and nonlinearity problems in high power applications. Similarly, the
effects of an optically controlled PIN diode were incorporated into a model. The parasitic
element, shown in Figure 3, increased the gain and performed a dual-frequency operation,
and did not disturb the radiation patterns. Yet, the complexity of this technique, although
compatible with MMIC structures, is apparent.

Fig. 3 A tunable antenna using an opyically controlled PIN


Shorting Pins
An interesting study of microstrip antennas with frequency agility
and polarization diversity using shorting pins was published. By
changing the number and location of the posts, the operating
frequency can be tuned over a 1.5-to-1 range, and the polarization
can be changed from horizontal to vertical, or right-hand or lefthand circular. Tuning ranges in excess of 50 percent are achieved by adding more posts. The
radiation patterns are not changed significantly by the shorting posts. One-, two- and multiplepost configurations have been studied. This geometry could be used in MMIC applications where
size is important and via holes are produced easily for the shorting pins. However, the design is
complicated in MIC applications by the added components, and their precise position is also
important. For high frequencies, the patch size is small and it becomes difficult to accommodate
the diodes or pins underneath it. These complications multiply when an array based on these
elements is designed.

An Adjustable Air Gap between the Substrate and the Ground Plane
A theory on microstrip antennas with an air gap to tune the resonant frequency of the patch
antenna was developed. The structure is made of two layers, including the substrate of
thickness h and an air region of thickness D. The effective permittivity is evidently reduced,
tending toward the free space value e0 as the air thickness increases. This concept was also
applied to stacked patches, performing a tunable arrangement with two stacked discs. In this
case, the upper air gap has the effect of altering the resonant frequency of the upper
resonance, while the lower air gap has more complicated impacts. The air gap does not affect
the radiation fields significantly. A variation of this concept, including a lossless matching
network and therefore increased bandwidth, has also been introduced. It was discovered that
the air gap width cannot be altered arbitrarily, and that there are three regions in which a
trade-off between good pattern characteristics and wider bandwidth was somehow different.
For D less than 0.14 l0, the patterns show good broadside features, but between 0.14 l0 and
0.31 l0 the bandwidth was reduced drastically and the patterns showed a dip at broadside. For
values of D greater than 0.31 l0, the pattern returned to normal and a high gain was achieved

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with a narrow bandwidth. This idea of an air gap can also be used to obtain a dual-band
antenna. These antennas can be used in vehicle satellite communications antenna systems,
where at least eight percent bandwidth is needed. The disadvantages are evident; the width of
the air gap D has to be changed mechanically, and electronic tuning appears to be a rather
troublesome idea. Also, the antenna is thicker than other novel designs with the same

Aperture-coupled Parallel Resonators and Slotted Patches

A broadband dual-lobed aperture-coupled element employing a full-wavelength-long patch was
envisaged. A butterfly-shaped aperture was used to increase the coupling between the patch
and the feed network. Yet, the main concept of this technique was significantly improved
recently by several authors almost simultaneously. The novel idea was to introduce two slots in
the radiating edges of the patch, as shown in Figure 4. These slots, which are etched close to
the radiating edges, do not change the first resonance frequency and radiation pattern of the
patch significantly while introducing another resonance with similar radiating properties that is
strongly dominated by the slot length. When the patch is loaded by the two slots, minor
perturbations occur on the TM100 mode because the slots are located on its current minima.
On the other hand, the same loading slots interact strongly with the TM300 mode, transforming
its current distribution onto that of the dominant mode and expecting similar radiation patterns.
The experiments revealed that the dual-frequency operation was possible with two slots or only
one slot printed on the patch, and curves of the fh/f1 ratio vs. slot length and slot position are
given.41 Dual-frequency operation can also be achieved by employing dual slots beneath a
single antenna. However, this variation will introduce the complexity inherent to dual-fed

Fig. 4 A slotted patch.

The dual-band patch antenna with a spur-line filter technique is
another example. In this structure, shown in Figure 5, the energy
stored by the resonant structure was determined mainly by the odd
mode with fields confined to the vicinity of the conductors and
concentrated in the gap between the strips, while the even modes
tend to fringe away from the strips. The even mode is more affected
by close objects than the odd mode. Hence, it can be concluded that
the filter is disturbed only by objects close to the gap between the
strips. The coupled lines are situated in the radiating edge of the
patch opposite the feed point, forcing the signal to be rejected close enough to the resonant
frequency of the filter to obtain a new cavity at that frequency. The measured SWR of the
structure showed an overall 7.37 percent bandwidth.

Fig. 5 A dual-band patch antenna with a spur-line filter.

Specially Shaped Patches

A novel circular patch antenna was created. A sectoral slot of the
circular patch was removed and shunted by a conducting strip. The
schematic design is shown in Figure 6. The slots act as a perturbing
element and modify the current distribution of the patch surface. A
bandwidth of 1.9 percent was achieved with an SWR of 2.

Fig. 6 A modified circular patch schematic.

The bow-tie antenna, shown in Figure 7, is a planar antenna with
inherent broadband impedance. This antenna has been used in
superconducting tunnel junction and Schottky diode mixers in the
frequency range of 94 to 466 GHz, and in linear imaging arrays,
plasma diagnostic systems and radio astronomy. Additionally, a logperiodic version of this antenna has also been built and tested. In

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this case, a centralized peak in both E- and H-planes at broadside

was found, which makes the log-periodic bow-tie antenna more
suitable for substrate-lens receiver systems, resulting in improved
coupling efficiencies.

Fig. 7 The bow-tie antenna.

Considerable research has been performed on the folded dipole
radiator above a ground plane, finding a 50 to 200 percent
bandwidth improvement when compared to patch antennas. The
geometry of the improved folded dipole is shown in Figure 8. The
experimental data on this dipole showed a 5.5 percent total
bandwidth under an SWR of 2. The trapezoidal dipole is another
example of a broadband antenna. A broadband two-dimensional
array was constructed with 128 trapezoidal dipoles.The highest
sidelobe level was below 10 dB, and the SWR results were one
octave in frequency (8 to 16 GHz) for an SWR of 2.

Fig. 8 The dual-folded dipole.

A new hexagonally shaped MPA was demonstrated experimentally to
exhibit greater bandwidth and increased gain over an equivalent
rectangular radiator. Only small changes in the far-field radiation
pattern were found for the hexagonal patch. The patch is formed by
adding triangles along the sides of a rectangular patch, where the
extension from the original rectangle is described in terms of a, the
apex distance, measured from the side of the original rectangle. It
was found that the bandwidth depends upon the apex distance. The
increase in the bandwidth with increasing apex distance was believed
to be due to an increase in radiation from the sides of the patch. Hence, the quality factor is
decreased and cavity losses are increased. A six percent bandwidth was found for a 4 mm apex
A novel ring-patch antenna for dual-band operation was proposed. The antenna, shown in
Figure 9, consists of two patches with different resonant frequencies. The key to this novel
design was the thick, short cylinder at its center, in contrast with the thin, short pin commonly
used for patch antennas. The patterns were found to have almost the same response as that of
the dipole, with a rotationally symmetric pattern in the horizontal plane that could be applied
for a conical beam antenna.

Fig. 9 A ring patch antenna for dual-frequency operation.

Other Techniques
The dichroic antenna, shown in Figure 10, is another interesting
method to achieve dual-band operation. Two antennas are
superimposed based on the invisibility of the uppermost antenna,
constructed from a frequency-selective conducting surface (FSCS). A
ripple in the radiation patterns and a deviation of approximately 2 dB
in the maximum sidelobe are usually the consequences of the
superimposition. Feed connections to the FSCS antenna can also be a significant problem. This
FSCS technique has commonly been used in satellite systems. The Cassini deep-space
program, recently initiated to explore the Saturnian planet system, is a clear example. In the
spacecraft, scheduled for launch in 1997, a multifunction multifrequency reflector antenna
system is envisaged. The single-reflector antenna will have a Ka-band cassegrain feed for
telecommunication and radio-science experiments, several Ku-band offset linear array feeds,
an X-band cassegrain feed for deep-space telecommunications and an S-band focal feed for
radio-science experiments. Thus, to accommodate this multifrequency operation, a subreflector
with frequency-selective surface capability has been designed.

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Fig. 10 The dichroic antenna.

A peculiar technique is the wedge-shaped microstrip antenna, shown
in Figure 11. Unlike ordinary patches, the width-to-height ratio is
not constant, and eeff depends on that ratio. To calculate the
resonant frequency, the analysis was made equivalent to that of the
cut-off wavelength of a parallepipoid waveguide of equal crosssectional dimensions. A considerable improvement in bandwidth was
achieved and the resonant frequency varied as the angle of the
wedge-shaped antenna changed. Yet, manufacturing complications
are predicted easily.

Fig. 11 A wedge-shaped patch antenna.

The Huygens MPA, shown in Figure 12, is an example of combining
two elements that have complementary impedances to produce
near-constant impedance and unidirectional patterns over a wide
band. However, in microstrip technology two different modes of the
same structure can be used instead of two separate elements. The
microstrip feed line is then located below the ground plane and
tapered to provide the necessary impedance at the feedpoint in
order to produce the desired excitation of the two modes relative to
one another. The impedance response of the antenna was indeed
good. When both modes were excited simultaneously, the input SWR was below 2 at all
frequencies from 500 to 1165 MHz, corresponding to an impedance bandwidth greater than
2.3. Thus, this antenna is useful for wideband applications where a directional antenna is
needed. In fact, two patterns with beams in opposite directions can be obtained simultaneously
from the same structure, and the antenna responds to both electric and magnetic fields, which
could be useful in diversity receiving systems.

Fig. 12 The Huygens MPA

Another example of an interesting effort was the insertion of metallic
strips on a rectangular patch antenna. The structure consists of two
layers with low and high dielectric constants. Since the layers are
very thin, only the dominant mode exists everywhere in the cavity,
with the exception of the metallic strips. The rapidly decaying
evanescent modes are confined within a small region near the edge
of the inner strips, which separate the region of high dielectric
constant from that of low dielectric constant. These strips are
allocated symmetrically to ensure symmetric radiation patterns. This
arrangement results in two types of field excitation. The fields of lower resonance are highly
excited in the high dielectric region and decay exponentially in the low dielectric region. On the
other hand, the fields of the higher order mode are strong in the low dielectric region. One
problem appears quickly: Since the high dielectric region occupies a smaller volume than the
low dielectric material, the lowest order mode results in less radiation efficiency.
An experimental study of a new class of broadband microstrip antenna was completed. A pair of
microstrip lines loaded with patches and having slightly different dimensions and spacing were
developed. The structure is excited from the back using a 50 W coaxial cable and terminated by
a matched load at the other end. An SWR of 2 was obtained in the frequency range from 8 to
11 GHz, which means a 40 percent bandwidth. Additionally, 19 dB cross-polarization levels
were found in the X-band. The disadvantage is that the maximum length required for this
antenna was 5 lmax, and the spacing between the radiating rows of patches should be 1.5


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This paper presents a survey of the different structures used to accomplish dual-frequency or
wideband operation in either a single-element patch antenna or a multi-element scheme.
However, a closer study reveals that some of these examples create problems in the design or
manufacturing stage, along with an increase in size or a degradation in any of the other
characteristics. By introducing slots in the patch, the dual-frequency operation can be achieved
in a single-element patch antenna. This dual-frequency operation is not accomplished at the
expense of any other feature such as cross polarization or distorted radiation patterns.
An extra improvement of four percent in bandwidth can be achieved with slotted patches, which
means an overall bandwidth of approximately 7.5 percent. This improvement is much less than
the 20 percent possible with multilayer structures or the 50 percent possible with log-periodic
arrangements, but no deterioration is observed on any of the other characteristics, such as
size, height or radiation patterns.
However, in these designs, discrepancies between simulated and measured results have been
found. It appears that the differences can be attributed to inaccuracies in the construction
process. The theory involved is not completely accurate and some approximations have been
taken for granted. However, future research may show that these conjectures might not be so

This work was supported by the EEC under the Training and Mobility of Researchers Programme
(IV Framework) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

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