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Microwave Antenna Near Field Power Estimation

George Kizer
Alcatel-Lucent (retired)
2308 Chadbourne Drive
Plano, Texas 75023

Abstract— The far field power density of fixed point to point 100% illumination efficiency. Their far field power density is
microwave antennas is well known. However, the near field well known [8].
power density has not been extensively studied. With the wide
deployment of small high frequency antennas, interest in this
issue has increased. This paper provides simple but accurate
formulas for calculating near field power density for circular and
square aperture antennas typically used in fixed point to point
microwave systems.

Fixed point to point microwave radio networks have been
deployed across the world since the late 1940’s. Most of the
time these networks located their microwave radio antennas
on tall towers in rural areas or on the top of large urban
buildings. In the last few years, with the ubiquitous
deployment of urban high frequency microwave systems to
support cellular and emerging WiMax and LTE networks, Fig. 1 Circular Antenna Far Field Power Density
microwave radio antennas are becoming much more prevalent
in areas where they may be near the general public.
Various government agencies and the IEEE have
established public protection limits [2] [7] [12] for radio wave
power. Unfortunately there are few accurate, simple methods
of determining this power in the near field of a microwave
antenna. This is especially concerning since the greatest
exposure risk is for small circular and square antennas now
being deployed widely in urban and suburban microwave
radio networks.


At microwave frequencies, the antennas with the largest
physical area have the most gain. These antennas are called Fig. 2 Square Antenna Far Field Power Density
aperture antennas because their defining feature is large area
or aperture. For the aperture antennas commonly used at For square antennas, the far field (and as will be shown
microwave frequencies, antenna pattern, beamwidth and below, the near field) power density is a function of antenna
illumination efficiency are primarily functions of the shape of rotation. However, when viewed directly in front of the
the aperture, the radiation pattern of the power distributed antenna (“boresight”), the power density is invariant with
across the antenna aperture (antenna illumination) and the rotation.
operating frequency. If two antennas have the same aperture The characteristics of an antenna are different at different
shape, aperture illumination and the same normalized distances from it. Very near the antenna, the dominant energy
dimension D / λ (or W / λ), they are electrically identical. is non-radiating (due to “reactive” fields). This is called the
Antenna illumination efficiency (η) is a function of antenna Reactive Near Field. Farther away but still near the antenna is
shape and illumination density. It is a critical function in the Radiating Near Field (or Fresnel) region. In this region,
determining far field gain and near field power density. the energy is radiating (It produces the conventional antenna
Most fixed point to point microwave antennas are circular radiation pattern when viewed from the far field.). Most of
(“dish”) feed horn illuminated aperture antennas with the energy is directly in front of the antenna. The energy in
approximately 50% illumination efficiency or square (“panel”) front of the antenna is roughly independent of distance from
strip line illuminated aperture antennas with approximately the antenna. Much farther away the antenna is the Far Field
(or Fraunhofer ) region. In this region energy is distributed in for calculating near field microwave antenna power density.
a pattern that is dependant upon observation angle from Using Hansen’s H illumination function [4], constant unity
boresight. The pattern relative to boresight is independent of phase (iz • s = 1), replacing k with 2π / λ and normalizing the
distance from the antenna. In this region, at a given angle distance from the antenna to the traditional far field crossover
relative to boresignt, energy is a function of distance squared. distance, 2 D2 / λ, Silver’s results become the following:
At distances far from the antenna, antenna gain and side lobe
(pattern) characteristics are of primary interest. At distances
Up = ( π / λ 2 )∫ F(x, y)(1/ δ)[B + jC ] dx dy
very near the antenna, the power density is of primary interest where the integral is over the entire aperture (A) of the
since this is related to public safety. antenna.
Illumination efficiency, a critical parameter in antenna
power calculations, is misunderstood by many engineers
(especially when they do near field power density
calculations). Illumination efficiency does not represent a
power loss. It represents a loss of antenna far field boresight
gain relative to an antenna with energy equally distributed
across the aperture of the antenna. As the antenna
illumination efficiency is lowered, more transmit energy is
located near the center of the antenna which increases the near
field boresight power density.
A common system engineering approach [3] for circular Fig. 3 Antenna Power Density Calculation Geometry
and square antennas is to estimate the near field power density
directly in front of the antenna as 4 P /A. This approach F(x, y) = the field (square root of power density)
calculates the correct near field power density for the fully illumination (H) function
illuminated (η = 1) circular antenna but over-estimates the B = (1 + cos φ ) sin δ + ( [ cos φ ] / δ ) cos δ
power density for a fully illuminated square antenna by 3.5 dB. C = (1 + cos φ ) cos δ - ( [ cos φ ] / δ ) sin δ
It gives no guidance for lower efficiency (η < 1) antennas. A δ=(2πr/λ)
variation of the this approach (equation (13) of [2]) attempts r = distance from a point on the antenna to a point in free
to compensate for illumination efficiency by multiplying the 4 space
P /A result by the illumination efficiency factor η. This = sqrt [ (x2 – x1)2 + y12 + z22 ] with sqrt [ ] the square
misinterprets the η factor as a power loss rather than a power root function
density concentration factor. While it gets the same result as φ = angle formed by Z axis and a ray from a point on the
the first approach for uniform illumination, it underestimates antenna to a point in free space
the power density for the η = 0.5 case (typical for commercial cos (φ ) = z2 / r
parabolic antennas) by 6 dB for a circular antenna and 5 dB Up2 = near field power density at free space point (x2,
for a square antenna. 0, z2)
Bickmore and Hansen [1][10] calculated antenna bore- F(x,y) can be taken as simply the illumination function
sight near field power density for a fully illuminated (η = 1) since the results will be normalized to the far field transition
square antenna and for a circular antenna with uniform or point. Hanesn’s H function produces illumination functions
linearly tapered antenna illumination power. The square which accurately reproduce commercial antenna patterns near
antenna result is typical of current panel antennas. The boresite in the far field [8]. To produce the final result, the
circular antenna results are not typical of commercial real and imaginary components are integrated separately and
antennas. The fully illuminated antenna closed form solutions the results power summed (square root of squares) to arrive at
are useful to validate numerical results. composite power.
Currently the most accurate method for circular antennas Silver’s formula calculates the radiating power in the
is Hansen’s work [5][10]. Unfortunately the published Fresnel and Fraunhofer regions. It does not predict the non-
integral formula has typographical errors and the numerical radiating reactive fields very near the antenna. Hansen [6]
results provided are not typical of commercial antennas. noted that this energy is restricted to the area no greater than
When the typographical errors are corrected, Hansen’s one wavelength (λ) from the face of the antenna (where radial
approach is found to be accurate for the limiting case of large distance is measured to the closest part of the aperture). This
circular antennas (D/λ >> 100) [8]. It is difficult to calculate, result was reconfirmed by Laybros and others [9]. Silver’s
only represents the limiting large antenna case and places the formula is also based upon discarding high order 1/δ terms of
peak and null values in the wrong location for small and a series expansion (the Fresnel field approximation).
medium size antennas. Comparing Silver’s formula with Hansen’s results which
include higher order terms [6] shows that Silver’s formula has
III. GENERAL APPROACH negligible error (< 10%) for radial distances as close as the
Using Silver’s classic results ([11], equation (2), page 170) reactive field transition point. The Silver equation should be
for aperture antennas, it is possible to derive a general method quite accurate for all practical distances from the antenna.
Silver’s two dimensional integral was numerically
integrated for circular antennas with various efficiencies.

Fig. 7 Square Antenna Near Field Power Density (D/λ = 66)

Fig. 4 Circular Antenna Near Field Power Density (D/λ = 66)

Fig 5 Circular Antenna Near Field Power Density (D/λ = 66)

Fig. 8 Square Antenna Near Field Power Density (D/λ = 66)
Renormalizing Hansen’s H illumination function for
square apertures, the calculations were repeated for square
aperture (“panel”) antennas.

Fig. 9 Square Antenna Near Field Power Density (D/λ = 66)

In the preceding figures, distance to the side of the

antenna center x was normalized to the antenna diameter or
the square antenna width where width is measured along the
Fig. 6 Square Antenna Near Field Power Density (D/λ = 66) side of the square. The distance in front of the antenna z was
normalized to the traditional far field transition point directly relatively conservative, method for estimating boresight near
in front of the antenna. The normalized antenna size D / λ = field power density is needed for safety evaluations. Power
66 was chosen for illustration since it approximates the value nulls are dependant upon illumination but maximum power is
for 10 foot lower 6 GHz and 6 foot 11 GHz antennas, the most not. If we ignore the power nulls, a general worst case result
popular antenna sizes in the United States [8]. is obtained.
Numerical calculations were accomplished for η between
0.1 and 1 and for normalized antenna sizes (D / λ) or (W / λ)
between 1 and 250.

Fig. 12 Circular (left) and Square (right) Antenna Near Field Power Density

The following represent worst case curve fits to the

Fig. 10 Circular (left) and Square (right) Antenna Near Field Power Density numerical calculations for various efficiency antennas.
For circular aperture (“parabolic dish”) microwave
From these calculations we may compare the historical antennas, the following apply:
far field transition point (2 D2 / λ or 2 W2 / λ) with the point 10 log10 [ S(∆) / S(∆ = 1) ] = -2 ∆ dB or
at which the actual power diverges from the far field value by
10 log10 [ S(∆) / S(∆ = 1) ]
1 dB.
2 2 3
=A+Bη+C/η+Dη +E/η +Fη
Where A = 40.430453, B = -61.480406,
C = -0.46691971 and D = 55.376708,
E = 0.04791274, and F = -19.805638
For square (“panel”) antennas, the following apply:
10 log10 [ S(∆) / S(∆ = 1) ] = -2 ∆ dB or
10 log10 [ S(∆) / S(∆ = 1) ]
2 2 3
=A+Bη+C/η+Dη +E/η +Fη
Where A = 34.223061, B = -58.288613,
C = 0.51017224, D = 64.124471,
Fig. 11 Circular (left) and Square (right) Antenna Near Field Transitions E = -0.013593334, and F = -29.354905
In both of the above cases, use the smaller power of the
The historical transition formulas are of limited value two equations. For the above cases, the reference power is
since they ignore the effect of illumination efficiency η. If the given by the following:
far field transition is defined as the point at which the circular S(∆=1) = ( π η p ) / ( 16 D2 ) for circular antennas
antenna boresight gain is 1 dB less than the far field gain for = (η p ) / ( 4 W2 ) for square antennas
that distance, the following formulas may be used to estimate The reference power density is the value at the far field
that limit: transition distance d = [ 2 D2 / λ ] for circular antennas or d =
[ 2 W2 / λ ] for square antennas.
∆dB (1 dB far field transition distance for circular antenna) (10 log [ S(∆) / S(∆ = 1) ])/10
[S(∆) / S(∆ = 1)] = 10
= -10.46 + 8.730 η - 4.116 η2 -0.4638 / η S(∆) = [S(∆) / S(∆ = 1)] S(∆ = 1)
Near field power is calculated at the worst case location (bore
∆dB (far field transition distance for square antenna) sight at the reactive near field to Fresnel field transition point
= -8.544 + 6.188 η - 1.954 η2 -0.5349 / η of d = λ) which is ∆ = 1 / [ 2 (D / λ)2 ] or ∆ = 1 / [ 2 (W / λ)2 ].
For high efficiency antennas (η ≈ 1), the near field power The numerical calculation of the Silver power density
density varies considerably with distance from the antenna. equation provides information not previously reported. High
This variation reduces quickly as the efficiency is reduced. In efficiency antennas have complicated oscillatory near field
all cases, the highest power density is in a line at the center of power density functions. Lower efficiency antennas have
the antenna and orthogonal to the face of the antenna. The more controlled monotonic power density functions.
Hansen limiting case [8] gives a good indication of the Fortunately, in all cases, the (peak) worst case power density
variation as a function of illumination efficiency. A simple, always occurs directly in front of the antenna. This allows the
complicated numerical results to be greatly simplified. The Fresnel field transition point d = λ (∆ = 1 / [ 2 (D / λ)2 ] or ∆ =
calculated results also reveal a direct relationship between 1 / [ 2 (W / λ)2 ]).
antenna efficiency and far field transition point. Lower
efficiency antennas have effectively smaller diameters (or VI. VARIABLE DEFINITIONS
widths) than their physical dimensions predict. D / λ = normalized diameter of circular antenna
Using the previous numerical results, practical worst case = 1.0167 D (ft) f (GHz) = 3.3356 D (m) f (GHz)
(near the antenna) power limits are calculated based upon the W / λ = normalized width of square antenna
assumption that the antennas are large (D / λ >> 1). For this ∆ = d / [ 2 D2 / λ ] = normalized distance parameter for
assumption only the limiting near field case (left side of Fig. circular antenna
12 graphs) is important. This assumption is accurate for = 0.49179 d (ft) / [ D(ft)2 f(GHz) ]
virtually all commercial antennas currently used in microwave = 0.14990 d (m) / [ D(m)2 f(GHz) ]
bands. ∆ = d / [ 2 W2 / λ ] = normalized distance parameter for
TABLE I square antenna
POWER DENSITY LIMIT d = distance from the center of the antenna to the point of
Diameter or Parabolic Antenna Square Antenna
Width (55% efficiency) (100% efficiency)
D = diameter of the circular antenna (aperture)
(feet) Max. Power (dBm) Max. Power (dBm) W = width of the side of the square antenna (aperture)
0.25 7.9 12.4 λ = free space wavelength = 0.98357 / f (GHz) [feet]
0.5 13.9 18.5 = 0.29980 / f (GHz) [m]
1 19.9 24.5 f = radio signal frequency
2 26.0 30.5 A = area of the antenna = π D2 / 4 = W2
3 29.5 34.0 η (power ratio)
4 32.0 36.5 = antenna illumination efficiency (between 0 and 1)
6 35.5 40.0 p = transmit power appearing at the antenna input
8 38.0 42.5 S = near field transmit power density ( power / area )
10 39.9 44.5 REFERENCES
12 41.5 46.1 [1] R. W. Bickmore and R. C. Hansen, “Antenna Power Densities in the
15 43.5 48.0 Fresnel Region,” Proceedings of the IRE, vol. 47, pp. 2119-2120,
December 1959.
The table lists the power into the antenna which results in [2] R. F. Cleveland, Jr., D. M. Sylvar, and J. L. Ulcek, Evaluating
2 Compliance with FCC Guidelines for Human Exposure to
the FCC power density limit of 1 mW/cm . It illustrates the Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields, OET Bulletin 65. Washington,
non-intuitive result that the smaller the antenna, the greater the D. C.: Federal Communications Commission, Office of Engineering
worst case near field power density. Also, the worst case and Technology, pp 26-30, 1997.
[3] Editorial Board, Reference Data for Radio Engineers, Fifth Edition,
power density is not a function of frequency or antenna gain – Indianapolis: H. W. Sams & Co., pp 25-47 – 25-48, 1968.
just size and illumination efficiency (how densely the energy [4] R. C. Hansen, “A One-Parameter Circular Aperture Distribution with
is spread across the aperture of the antenna). Narrow Beam Width and Low Sidelobes,” IEEE Transactions on
The above results assume a near field exists. For very Antennas and Propagation, vol. AP-24, pp. 477-480, July 1976.
[5] R. C. Hansen, “Circular-Aperture Axial Power Density,” Microwave
small antennas, the far field may begin near the transition Journal, vol. 19, pp. 50-52, February 1976.
from the reactive near field (one wavelength from the [6] R. C. Hansen, “Aperture Theory,” Microwave Scanning Antennas,
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used in the unlicensed bands in the United States. 1964.
[7] IEEE Standards Coordinating Committee 28, IEEE Standard for Safety
Calculations were made for these antennas: Levels with Respect to Human Exposure to Radio Frequency
TABLE II Electromagnetic Fields, 3 kHz to 300 GHz, IEEE C95.1-1991, New
York: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, pp. 12 – 20,
POWER DENSITY LIMIT FOR VERY SMALL PANEL ANTENNAS [8] G. M. Kizer, Digital Microwave Communication: Engineering Point-
to-Point Microwave Systems. New York: Wiley Press, in preparation.
Width (feet) 2.4 GHz 5.2 GHz 5.8 GHz [9] S. Laybros, P. F. Combes and H. J. Mametsa, “The “Very-Near-Field”
0.25 26.2 dBm 12.8 dBm 12.4 dBm Region of Equiphase Radiating Apertures,” IEEE Antennas and
0.5 20.2 dBm 18.5 dBm 18.5 dBm Propagation Magazine, pp. 50-66, August 2005.
[10] T. S. Saad, R. C. Hansen and G. J. Wheeler, Microwave Engineers’
1 24.5 dBm 24.5 dBm 24.5 dBm Handbook, Volume 2. Dedham: Artech House, Inc., pg 34, 1971.
[11] S. Silver, Microwave Antenna Theory and Design. New York:
From Fig. 11 we may infer that antennas with (D or W) / McGraw-Hill, pp 169-180, 195 and 587 - 592, 1949.
[12] United States Federal Government, “OSHA Radiation Protection
λ < 2 may not have a radiating near field. This situation will Guide,” Code of Federal Regulations, 29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart G,
be taken into account automatically as long as all near field Standard 1910.97, subparagraph (a) (2) (i), Washington, D. C.:
power density calculation are made at the reactive near field to published yearly.