Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:
If you had been around in the early days of electronics, you would have considered an ANTENNA (AERIAL) to be little more than a piece of wire strung between two trees or upright poles. In those days, technicians assumed that longer antennas automatically provided better reception than shorter antennas. They also believed that a mysterious MEDIUM filled all space, and that an antenna used this medium to send and receive its energy. These two assumptions have since been discarded. Modern antennas have evolved to the point that highly directional, specially designed antennas are used to relay worldwide communications in space through the use of satellites and Earth station antennas (fig. 4-1). Present transmission theories are based on the assumption that space itself is the only medium necessary to propagate (transmit) radio energy.
Figure 4-1. - Satellite/earth station communications system.
A tremendous amount of knowledge and information has been gained about the design of antennas and radio-wave propagation. Still, many old-time technicians will tell you that when it comes to designing the length of an antenna, the best procedure is to perform all calculations and try out the antenna. If it doesn't work right, use a cut-and-try method until it does. Fortunately, enough information has been collected over the last few decades that it is now possible to predict the behavior of antennas. This chapter will discuss and explain the basic design and operation of antennas.
PRINCIPLES OF ANTENNA RADIATION
After an rf signal has been generated in a transmitter, some means must be used to radiate this signal through space to a receiver. The device that does this job is the antenna. The transmitter signal energy is sent into space by a TRANSMITTING ANTENNA; the rf signal is then picked up from space by a RECEIVING ANTENNA.
The rf energy is transmitted into space in the form of an electromagnetic field. As the traveling electromagnetic field arrives at the receiving antenna, a voltage is induced into the antenna (a conductor). The rf voltages induced into the receiving antenna are then passed into the receiver and converted back into the transmitted rf information.
The design of the antenna system is very important in a transmitting station. The antenna must be able to radiate efficiently so the power supplied by the transmitter is not wasted. An efficient transmitting antenna must have exact dimensions. The dimensions are determined by the transmitting frequencies. The dimensions of the receiving antenna are not critical for relatively low radio frequencies. However, as the frequency of the signal being received increases, the design and installation of the receiving antenna become more critical. An example of this is a television receiving antenna. If you raise it a few more inches from the ground or give a slight turn in direction, you can change a snowy blur into a clear picture.
The conventional antenna is a conductor, or system of conductors, that radiates or intercepts electromagnetic wave energy. An ideal antenna has a definite length and a uniform diameter, and is completely isolated in space. However, this ideal antenna is not realistic. Many factors make the design of an antenna for a communications system a more complex problem than you would expect. These factors include the height of the radiator above the earth, the conductivity of the earth below it, and the shape and dimensions of the antenna. All of these factors affect the radiated-field pattern of the antenna in space. Another problem in antenna design is that the radiation pattern of the antenna must be directed between certain angles in a horizontal or vertical plane, or both.
Most practical transmitting antennas are divided into two basic classifications, HERTZ (half-wave) ANTENNAS and MARCONI (quarter-wave) ANTENNAS. Hertz antennas are generally installed some distance above the ground and are positioned to radiate either vertically or horizontally. Marconi antennas operate with one end grounded and are mounted perpendicular to the Earth or to a surface acting as a ground. Hertz antennas are generally used for frequencies above 2 megahertz. Marconi antennas are used for frequencies below 2 megahertz and may be used at higher frequencies in certain applications.
A complete antenna system consists of three parts: (1) The COUPLING DEVICE, (2) the FEEDER, and (3) the ANTENNA, as shown in figure 4-2. The coupling device (coupling coil) connects the transmitter to the feeder. The feeder is a transmission line that carries energy to the antenna. The antenna radiates this energy into space.
Figure 4-2. - Typical antenna system.
The factors that determine the type, size, and shape of the antenna are (1) the frequency of operation of the transmitter, (2) the amount of power to be radiated, and (3) the general direction of the receiving set. Typical antennas are shown in figure 4-3.
Figure 4-3. - Typical antennas.
CURRENT AND VOLTAGE DISTRIBUTION ON AN ANTENNA
A current flowing in a wire whose length is properly related to the rf produces an electro magnetic field. This field is radiated from the wire and is set free in space. We will discuss how these waves are set free later in this chapter. Remember, the principles of radiation of electromagnetic energy are based on two laws:
1. A MOVING ELECTRIC FIELD CREATES A MAGNETIC (H) FIELD.
In space, these two fields will be in phase and perpendicular to each other at any given time. Although a conductor is usually considered present when a moving electric or magnetic field is mentioned, the laws that govern these fields say nothing about a conductor. Therefore, these laws hold true whether a conductor is present or not.
Figure 4-4 shows the current and voltage distribution on a half-wave (Hertz) antenna. In view A, a piece of wire is cut in half and attached to the terminals of a high-frequency ac generator. The frequency of the generator is set so that each half of the wire is 1/4 wavelength of the output. The result is a common type of antenna known as a DIPOLE.
Figure 4-4. - Current and voltage distribution on an antenna.
At a given time the right side of the generator is positive and the left side negative. Remember that like charges repel. Because of this, electrons will flow away from the negative terminal as far as possible, but will be attracted to the positive terminal. View B shows the direction and distribution of electron flow. The distribution curve shows that most current flows in the center and none flows at the ends. The current distribution over the antenna will always be the same no matter how much or how little current is flowing. However, current at any given point on the antenna will vary directly with the amount of voltage developed by the generator.
One-quarter cycle after electrons have begun to flow, the generator will develop its maximum voltage and the current will decrease to 0. At that time the condition shown in view C will exist. No current will be flowing, but a maximum number of electrons will be at the left end of the line and a minimum number at the right end. The charge distribution view C along the wire will vary as the voltage of the generator varies. Therefore, you may draw the following conclusions:
1. A current flows in the antenna with an amplitude that varies with the generator