An array antenna is a special arrangement of basic antenna components involving new factors and concepts. Before you begin studying about arrays, you need to study some new terminology.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
An array antenna is made up of more than one ELEMENT, but the basic element is generally the dipole. Sometimes the basic element is made longer or shorter than a half-wave, but the deviation usually is not great.
A DRIVEN element is similar to the dipole you have been studying and is connected directly to the transmission line. It obtains its power directly from the transmitter or, as a receiving antenna, it delivers the received energy directly to the receiver. A PARASITIC ELEMENT is located near the driven element from which it gets its power. It is placed close enough to the driven element to permit coupling.
A parasitic element is sometimes placed so it will produce maximum radiation (during transmission) from its associated driver. When it operates to reinforce energy coming from the driver toward itself, the parasitic element is referred to as a DIRECTOR. If a parasitic element is placed so it causes maximum energy radiation in a direction away from itself and toward the driven element, that parasitic element is called a REFLECTOR.
If all of the elements in an array are driven, the array is referred to as a DRIVEN ARRAY (sometimes as a CONNECTED ARRAY). If one or more elements are parasitic, the entire system usually is considered to be a PARASITIC ARRAY.
MULTIELEMENT ARRAYS frequently are classified according to their directivity. A BIDIRECTIONAL ARRAY radiates in opposite directions along the line of maximum radiation. A UNIDIRECTIONAL ARRAY radiates in only one general direction.
Arrays can be described with respect to their radiation patterns and the types of elements of which they are made. However, you will find it useful to identify them by the physical placement of the elements and the direction of radiation with respect to these elements. Generally speaking, the term BROADSIDE ARRAY designates an array in which the direction of maximum radiation is perpendicular to the plane containing these elements. In actual practice, this term is confined to those arrays in which the elements themselves are also broadside, or parallel, with respect to each other.
A COLLINEAR ARRAY is one in which all the elements lie in a straight line with no radiation at the ends of the array. The direction of maximum radiation is perpendicular to the axis of the elements.
An END-FIRE ARRAY is one in which the principal direction of radiation is along the plane of the array and perpendicular to the elements. Radiation is from the end of the array, which is the reason this arrangement is referred to as an end-fire array.
Sometimes a system uses the characteristics of more than one of the three types mentioned. For instance, some of the elements may be collinear while others may be parallel. Such an arrangement is often referred to as a COMBINATION ARRAY or an ARRAY OF ARRAYS. Since maximum radiation occurs at right angles to the plane of the array, the term broadside array is also used.
The FRONT-TO-BACK RATIO is the ratio of the energy radiated in the principal direction compared to the energy radiated in the opposite direction for a given antenna.
Various reflected and refracted components of the propagated wave create effects of reinforcement and cancellation. At certain distant points from the transmitter, some of the wave components meet in space. Reception at these points is either impaired or improved. If the different components arrive at a given point in the same phase, they add, making a stronger signal available. If they arrive out of phase, they cancel, reducing the signal strength.
Effects similar to those described in the preceding paragraph can be produced at the transmitting point itself. Consider the antennas shown in figure 4-21, views A and B. View A shows an unobstructed view of the radiation pattern of a single dipole. In view B two dipoles, shown as points 1 and 2, are perpendicular to the plane of the page. They are spaced 1/4 wavelength apart at the operating frequency. The radiation pattern from either antenna 1 or 2, operating alone, would be uniform in all directions in this plane, as shown in view A. Suppose that current is being fed to both antennas from the same transmitter in such a way that the current fed to antenna 2 lags the current in antenna 1 by 90 degrees. Energy radiating from antenna 1 toward receiving location X will reach antenna 2 after 1/4 cycle of operation. The energy from both antennas will add, and propagation toward X will be strong.
Figure 4-21. - Phasing of antenna in free space.
Radiation from antenna 2 toward receiving location Y will reach antenna 1 after 1/4 cycle. The energy in antenna 1 was 1/4 cycle behind that of antenna 2 to begin with; therefore, the radiation from antenna 1 toward receiving point Y will be exactly 180 degrees out of phase with that of antenna 2. As a result, the radiation fields will cancel and there will be no radiation toward Y.
At receiving points away from the line of radiation, phase differences occur between 0 and 180 degrees, producing varying amounts of energy in that direction. The overall effect is shown by the radiation pattern shown in view B. The physical phase relationship caused by the 1/4-wavelength spacing between the two elements, as well as the phase of the currents in the elements, has acted to change the radiation pattern of the individual antennas.
In the case just discussed, the currents fed to the two antennas from the same transmitter were 90 degrees out of phase. Sections of transmission line, called STUBS, are frequently used for this purpose. These stubs can be adjusted to produce any desired phase relationship between connected elements.
When two collinear half-wave elements are connected directly so their currents are in the same phase, the effect is the same as that of a full-wave antenna, as shown in figure 4-22, view A. The current in the first 1/2 wavelength is exactly 180 degrees out of phase with that in the second 1/2 wavelength. This is the opposite of the desired condition. In the illustration, arrows are used to indicate the direction of current flow in the antenna. (Using arrows is a convenient means of determining the phase on more complicated arrays.)
Figure 4-22. - Phasing of connected elements.
When the two elements are connected by a shorted 1/4-wavelength stub, as shown in view B, current travels down one side of the stub and up the other. It travels a distance of a 1/2 wavelength in the stub itself. As a result, the current moves through 1/2 cycle of change. When the current reaches the second element, it is in the desired phase. Since the current on one side of the stub is equal and opposite to the current on the other side, the fields produced here cancel and no radiation is transmitted from the stub itself.
The DIRECTIVITY of an antenna or an array can be determined by looking at its radiation pattern. In an array propagating a given amount of energy, more radiation takes place in certain directions than in others. The elements in the array can be altered in such a way that they change the pattern and distribute it more uniformly in all directions. The elements can be considered as a group of antennas fed from a common source and facing different directions. On the other hand, the elements could be arranged so that the radiation would be focused in a single direction. With no increase in power from the transmitter, the amount of radiation in a given direction would be greater. Since the input power has no increase, this increased directivity is achieved at the expense of gain in other directions.
Directivity and Interference
In many applications, sharp directivity is desirable although no need exists for added gain. Examine the physical disposition of the units shown in figure 4-23. Transmitters 1 and 2 are sending information to receivers 1 and 2, respectively, along the paths shown by the solid arrows. The distance between transmitter 1 and receiver 1 or between transmitter 2 and receiver 2 is short and does not require high-power transmission. The antennas of the transmitters propagate well in all directions. However, receiver 1 picks up some of the signals from transmitter 2, and receiver 2 picks up some of the signals from transmitter 1, as shown by the broken arrows. This effect is emphasized if the receiving antennas intercept energy equally well in all directions.
Figure 4-23. - Directivity and interference.
The use of highly directional arrays as radiators from the transmitters tends to solve the problem. The signals are beamed along the paths of the solid arrows and provide very low radiation along the paths of the broken arrows. Further improvement along these lines is obtained by the use of narrowly directed arrays as receiving antennas. The effect of this arrangement is to select the desired signal while discriminating against all other signals. This same approach can be used to overcome other types of radiated interference. In such cases, preventing radiation in certain directions is more important than producing greater gain in other directions.
Look at the differences between the field patterns of the single-element antenna and the array, as illustrated in figure 4-24. View A shows the relative field-strength pattern for a horizontally polarized single antenna. View B shows the horizontal-radiation pattern for an array. The antenna in view A radiates fairly efficiently in the desired direction toward receiving point X. It radiates equally as efficiently toward Y, although no radiation is desired in this direction. The antenna in view B radiates strongly to point X, but very little in the direction of point Y, which results in more satisfactory operation.
Figure 4-24. - Single antenna versus array.
Major and Minor Lobes
The pattern shown in figure 4-24, view B, has radiation concentrated in two lobes. The radiation intensity in one lobe is considerably stronger than in the other. The lobe toward point X is called a MAJOR LOBE; the other is a MINOR LOBE. Since the complex radiation patterns associated with arrays frequently contain several lobes of varying intensity, you should learn to use appropriate terminology. In general, major lobes are those in which the greatest amount of radiation occurs. Minor lobes are those in which the radiation intensity is least.