You have already learned about radiation patterns and directivity of radiation. These topics are important to you because using an antenna with an improper radiation pattern or with the wrong directivity will decrease the overall performance of the system. In the following paragraphs, we discuss in more detail the various types of directional antenna arrays mentioned briefly in the "definition of terms" paragraph above.
The pattern radiated by the collinear array is similar to that produced by a single dipole. The addition of the second radiator, however, tends to intensify the pattern. Compare the radiation pattern of the dipole (view A of figure 4-25) and the two-element antenna in view B. You will see that each pattern consists of two major lobes in opposite directions along the same axis, QQ1. There is little or no radiation along the PP1 axis. QQ1 represents the line of maximum propagation. You can see that radiation is stronger with an added element. The pattern in view B is sharper, or more directive, than that in view A. This means that the gain along the line of maximum energy propagation is increased and the beam width is decreased. As more elements are added, the effect is heightened, as shown in view C. Unimportant minor lobes are generated as more elements are added.
Figure 4-25. - Single half-wave antenna versus two half-wave antennas in phase.
More than four elements are seldom used because accumulated losses cause the elements farther from the point of feeding to have less current than the nearer ones. This introduces an unbalanced condition in the system and impairs its efficiency. Space limitations often are another reason for restricting the number of elements. Since this type of array is in a single line, rather than in a vertically stacked arrangement, the use of too many elements results in an antenna several wavelengths long.
RADIATION PATTERN. - The characteristic radiation pattern of a given array is obtained at the frequency or band of frequencies at which the system is resonant. The gain and directivity characteristics are lost when the antenna is not used at or near this frequency and the array tunes too sharply. A collinear antenna is more effective than an end-fire array when used off its tuned frequency. This feature is considered when transmission or reception is to be over a wide frequency band. When more than two elements are used, this advantage largely disappears.
LENGTH AND PHASING. - Although the 1/2 wavelength is the basis for the collinear element, you will find that greater lengths are often used. Effective arrays of this type have been constructed in which the elements are 0.7 and even 0.8 wavelength long. This type of array provides efficient operation at more than one frequency or over a wider frequency range. Whatever length is decided upon, all of the elements in a particular array should closely adhere to that length. If elements of different lengths are combined, current phasing and distribution are changed, throwing the system out of balance and seriously affecting the radiation pattern.
Q.28 What is the maximum number of elements ordinarily used in a collinear array?