# Overview

There are two fundamental types of antennas, which, with reference to a specific three dimensional (usually horizontal or vertical) plane are: 1. 2. either omni-directional (radiate equally in the plane) directional (radiates more in one direction than in the other).

Antenna parameters
There are several critical parameters that affect an antenna's performance and can be adjusted during the design process. These are resonant frequency, impedance, gain, aperture or radiation pattern, polarization, efficiency and bandwidth. Transmit antennas may also have a maximum power rating, and receive antennas differ in their noise rejection properties.

Resonant frequency
The "resonant frequency" and "electrical resonance" is related to the electrical length of the antenna. The electrical length is usually the physical length of the wire multiplied by the ratio of the speed of wave propagation in the wire. Typically an antenna is tuned for a specific frequency, and is effective for a range of frequencies usually centered on that resonant frequency. However, the other properties of the antenna (especially radiation pattern and impedance) change with frequency, so the antenna's resonant frequency may merely be close to the center frequency of these other more important properties.

Antennas can be made resonant on harmonic frequencies with lengths that are fractions of the target wavelength. Some antenna designs have multiple resonant frequencies, and some are relatively effective over a very broad range of frequencies. The most commonly known type of wide band aerial is the logarithmic or log periodic, but its gain is usually much lower than that of a specific or narrower band aerial.

Gain
In antenna design, "gain" is the logarithm of the ratio of the intensity of an antenna's radiation pattern in the direction of strongest radiation to that of a reference antenna. If the reference antenna is an isotropic antenna, the gain is often expressed in units of dBi (decibels over isotropic). For example, a dipole antenna has a gain of 2.14 dBi [1]. Often, the dipole antenna is used as the reference (since a perfect isotropic reference is impossible to build), in which case the gain of the antenna in question is measured in dBd (decibels over dipole).

The gain of an antenna is a passive phenomena - power is not added by the antenna, but simply redistributed to provide more radiated power in a certain direction than would be transmitted by an isotropic antenna. If an antenna has a positive gain in some directions, it must have a negative gain in other directions as energy is conserved by the antenna. The gain that can be achieved by an Antenna is therefore trade-off between the range of directions that must be covered by an Antenna and the gain of the antenna. For example, a dish antenna on a spacecraft has a very large gain, but only over a very small range of directions - it must be accurately pointed at earth - but a radio transmitter has a very small gain as it is required to radiate in all directions. For dish-type antennas, gain is proportional to the aperture (reflective area) and surface accuracy of the dish, as well as the frequency being transmitted/received. In general, a larger aperture provides a higher gain. Also, the higher the frequency, the higher the gain, but surface inaccuracies lead to a larger degradation of gain at higher frequencies.

"Aperture", and "radiation pattern" are closely related to gain. Aperture is the shape of the "beam" cross section in the direction of highest gain, and is two-dimensional. (Sometimes aperture is expressed as the radius of the circle that approximates this cross section or the angle of the cone.) Radiation pattern is the three-dimensional plot of the gain, but usually only the two-dimensional horizontal and vertical cross sections of the radiation pattern are considered. Antennas with high gain typically show side lobes in the radiation pattern. Side lobes are peaks in gain other than the main lobe (the "beam"). Side lobes detract from the antenna quality whenever the system is being used to determine the direction of a signal, as in radar systems and reduce gain in the main lobe by distributing the power.

Bandwidth
The "bandwidth" of an antenna is the range of frequencies over which it is effective, usually centered around the resonant frequency. The bandwidth of an antenna may be increased by several techniques, including using thicker wires, replacing wires with cages to simulate a thicker wire, tapering antenna components (like in a feed horn), and combining multiple antennas into a single assembly and allowing the natural impedance to select the correct antenna. Small antennas are usually preferred for convenience, but there is a fundamental limit relating bandwidth, size and efficiency.

Impedance
"Impedance" is analogous to refractive index in optics. As the electric wave travels through the different parts of the antenna system (radio, feed line, antenna, free space) it may encounter differences in impedance. At each interface, depending on the impedance match, some fraction of the wave's energy will reflect back to the source, forming a standing wave in the feed line. The ratio of maximum power to minimum power in the wave can be measured and is called the standing wave ratio (SWR). A SWR of 1:1 is ideal. A SWR of 1.5:1 is considered to be marginally acceptable in low power applications where power loss is more critical, although an SWR as high as 6:1 may still be usable with the right equipment. Minimizing impedance differences at each interface (impedance matching) will reduce SWR and maximize power transfer through each part of the antenna system. Complex impedance of an antenna is related to the electrical length of the antenna at the wavelength in use. The impedance of an antenna can be matched to the feed line and radio by adjusting the impedance of the feed line, using the feed line as an impedance transformer. More commonly, the impedance is adjusted at the load (see below) with an antenna tuner, a balun, a matching transformer, matching networks composed of inductors and capacitors, or matching sections such as the gamma match.

Polarization
The "polarization" of an antenna is the orientation of the electric field (E-plane) of the radio wave with respect to the Earth's surface and is determined by the physical structure

Efficiency
"Efficiency" is the ratio of power actually radiated to the power put into the antenna terminals. A dummy load may have a SWR of 1:1 but an efficiency of 0, as it absorbs all power and radiates heat but not RF energy, showing that SWR alone is not an effective measure of an antenna's efficiency. Radiation in an antenna is caused by radiation resistance which can only be measured as part of total resistance including loss resistance. Loss resistance usually results in heat generation rather than radiation, and therefore, reduces efficiency.

Overview of antenna parameters
Except for polarization, the SWR is the most easily measured of the parameters above. Impedance can be measured with specialized equipment, as it relates to the complex SWR. Measuring radiation pattern requires a sophisticated setup including significant clear space (enough to put the sensor into the antenna's far field, or an anechoic chamber designed for antenna measurements), careful study of experiment geometry, and specialized measurement equipment that rotates the antenna during the measurements. The distance is the space between two points, which may be immediately juxtaposed or widely spaced. Bandwidth depends on the overall effectiveness of the antenna, so all of these parameters must be understood to fully characterize the bandwidth capabilities of an antenna. However, in practice, bandwidth is typically determined by looking only at SWR, i.e., by finding the frequency range over which the SWR is less than a given value. Bandwidth over which an antenna exhibits a particular radiation pattern is also important, for in practical use the performance of an antenna at the extremes of an assigned frequency band is important.

Transmission and reception
All of these parameters are expressed in terms of a transmission antenna, but are identically applicable to a receiving antenna, due to reciprocity. Impedance, however, is not applied in an obvious way; for impedance, the impedance at the load (where the power is consumed) is most critical. For a transmitting antenna, this is the antenna itself. For a receiving antenna, this is at the (radio) receiver rather than at the antenna. Tuning is done by adjusting the length of an electrically long linear antenna to alter the electrical resonance of the antenna. Antenna tuning is done by adjusting an inductance or capacitance combined with the active antenna (but distinct and separate from the the active antenna). The inductance or capacitance provides the reactance which combines with the inherent reactance of the active antenna to establish a resonance in a circuit including the active antenna. The established resonance being at a frequency other than the natural electrical resonant frequency of the active antenna. Adjustment of the inductance or capacitance changes this resonance.

Antennas used for transmission have a maximum power rating, beyond which heating, arcing or sparking may occur in the components, which may cause them to be damaged or destroyed. Raising this maximum power rating usually requires larger and heavier components, which may require larger and heavier supporting structures. Of course, this is only a concern for transmitting antennas; the power received by an antenna rarely exceeds the microwatt range. Antennas designed specifically for reception might be optimized for noise rejection capabilities. An "antenna shield" is a conductive or low reluctance structure (such as a wire, plate or grid) which is adapted to be placed in the vicinity of an antenna to reduce, as by dissipation through a resistance or by conduction to ground, undesired electromagnetic radiation, or electric or magnetic fields, which are directed toward the active antenna from an external source or which emanate from the active antenna. Other methods to optimized for noise rejection can be done by selecting a narrow bandwidth so that noise from other frequencies is rejected, or selecting a specific radiation pattern to reject noise from a specific direction, or by selecting a polarization different from the noise polarization, or by selecting an antenna that favors either the electric or magnetic field. For instance, an antenna to be used for reception of low frequencies (below about ten megahertz) will be subject to both man made noise from motors and other machinery, and from natural sources such as lightning. Successfully rejecting these forms of noise is an important antenna feature. A small coil of wire with many turns is more able to reject such noise than a vertical antenna. However, the vertical will radiate much more effectively on transmit, where extraneous signals are not a concern.

Basic antenna models
There are many variations of antennas that have various configuartions. These configurations contain space or medium which tends to confine the energy within specified boundaries along a predetermined path (known as "restricted space"), such as wave guides, hollow resonators, and conductive wires. Below are a few common models.

A multiband rotary directional antenna for amateur radio use

The Phased array antenna is a group of independently fed active elements in which the relative phases of the respective signals feeding the elements are varied in such a way that the effective radiation pattern of the array is reinforced in a desired direction and suppressed in undesired directions. In plain language, this is a directional antenna that can be aimed without moving any parts. Synthetic aperture radar uses a series of observations separated in time and space to simulate a very large antenna. Interferometry allows the monitor to combine signals from several radio receivers or a single moving receiver. A trailing wire antenna is used by submarines when submerged. These antennas are designed to pick up transmissions in the low frequency (LF) and very low frequency (VLF) ranges. An evolved antenna refers to an antenna fully or substantially designed using a computer algorithm based on Darwinian evolution. A dielectric resonator is a variation on the conventional antenna in which an insulator with a large dielectric constant is used to modify the electromagnetic field. It is claimed that the dielectric contains the antenna's near field and therefore prevents it from interfering with other nearby antennas or circuits, making it suitable for miniature equipment such as mobile phones. A feed horn is an antenna system that handles the incoming waveform from the dish to the focal point. It usually comprises of a series of rings with decreasing radius in order to drive the signal to the polarizer.

How antennas work
Any conducting mass may function as a radiator or collector of radio wave energy and may act as an antenna. Antennas, more specifically, are passive conducting mass, which may be in the form of a metallic current conductor, wave guide, or space discharge. This mass in use is in direct engagement with free space to emit or collect radio wave energy to or from free space, and is coupled or connected to a source of energy or to a load. To act as an antenna the mass usually has a particular shape of dimension, or may have electrical circuit elements, namely, resistance, inductance, or capacity, associated therewith. "Scanning" an antenna repeated moves the antenna beam over an area in space, such as in radar. "Sweeping" an antenna moves the antenna beam repeatedly along a single line (which may be straight or curved) in space.

The reactive field
Fundamentally, all electromagnetic fields are created by the existence or movement of electrical charge, and in normal electrical circuits, this charge is exclusively carried by

electrons and protons. Since protons tend to be confined within atoms and move very little, it is usually only the movement of electrons that needs to be considered. Since an electric current in a wire consists of a moving cloud of electrons, it follows that every electric current induces a magnetic field. (Every electron also has its own permanent electric field called its coulomb field, but this is not observable outside the circuit because it is canceled by the equal but opposite coulomb field of a nearby proton.) If the current is constant, it induces a constant magnetic field, and the magnetic field is proportional to current. Maxwell's equations predict that a changing magnetic field induces a changing electric field, so we now have both magnetic and electric fields around the circuit, creating an electromagnetic field called the reactive field or inductive field. However, when the current stops, these fields collapse, returning energy to the power supply. The circuit therefore behaves like a reactive component, either a capacitor or an inductor, which stores energy temporarily but periodically returns it to the source.

Now consider a current that periodically reverses direction: an alternating current. This consists of a flow of electrons that must therefore reverse direction, and a change of direction is an acceleration. Because of the way that electromagnetic fields propagate through space at the speed of light, an accelerating electrical charge creates electromagnetic radiation. The result is that energy is continually radiated into space, and must be replenished from the circuit's power supply. The circuit is now behaving as an antenna, and is continually converting electrical energy into a radiating field that extends indefinitely outward. When the circuit is much shorter than the wavelength of the signal, the rate at which it radiates energy is proportional to the size of the current, the length of the circuit and the frequency of the alternations. In most circuits, the product of these three quantities is small enough that not much energy is radiated, and the result is that the reactive field dominates the radiating field. When the length of the antenna approaches the wavelength of the signal, the current along the antenna is no longer uniform and the calculation of power output becomes more complex.

Practical antennas
Although any circuit can radiate if driven with a signal of high enough frequency, most practical antennas are specially designed to radiate efficiently at a particular frequency. An example of an inefficient antenna is the simple Hertzian dipole antenna, which radiates over wide range of frequencies and is useful for its small size. A more efficient variation of this is the half-wave dipole, which radiates with high efficiency when the signal wavelength is twice the electrical length of the antenna.

One of the goals of antenna design is to minimize the reactance of the device so that it appears as a resistive load. An "antenna inherent reactance" includes not only the distributed reactance of the active antenna but also the natural reactance due to its location and surroundings (as for example, the capacity relation inherent in the position of the active antenna relative to ground). Reactance diverts energy into the reactive field, which causes unwanted currents that heat the antenna and associated wiring, thereby wasting energy without contributing to the radiated output. Reactance can be eliminated by operating the antenna at its resonant frequency, when its capacitive and inductive reactances are equal and opposite, resulting in a net zero reactive current. If this is not possible, compensating inductors or capacitors can instead be added to the antenna to cancel its reactance as far as the source is concerned. Once the reactance has been eliminated, what remains is a pure resistance, which is the sum of two parts: the ohmic resistance of the conductors, and the radiation resistance. Power absorbed by the ohmic resistance becomes waste heat, and that absorbed by the radiation resistance becomes radiated electromagnetic energy. The greater the ratio of radiation resistance to ohmic resistance, the more efficient the antenna.

Phase array antennas