The upper part of the figure depicts an aperture-coupled L-band antenna comprising patterned metal conductor films supported on two thin polyimide membranes separated by an air gap. In this antenna, power is coupled from a microstrip line on the lower surface of the lower membrane, through a slot in a metal ground plane on the upper surface of the lower membrane, to a radiating metal patch on the upper surface of

the upper membrane.

The two-membrane configuration of this antenna stands in contrast to a three-membrane configuration heretofore considered as the basis for developing arrays of dual-polarization, wideband microwave antennas that could be thin and could be, variously, incorporated into, or supported on, thin structures, including inflatable structures. By reducing the number of membranes from three to two, the present design simplifies the problems of designing and fabricating such antennas or arrays of such antennas, including the problems of integrating such antennas or arrays with thin-membrane-mounted transmit/ receive modules. In addition, the use of aperture (slot) coupling eliminates the need for rigid coaxial feed pins and associated solder connections on thin membranes, making this antenna more mechanically reliable, relative to antennas that include coaxial feed pins.

Aperture (Slot) Coupling is utilized in two- and one-membrane designs that are amenable to incorporationinto thin structures and to integration with membrane-supported transmit/receive modules.
This antenna is designed for a nominal frequency of 1.26 GHz. The polyimide membranes are 0.05 mm thick and have a relative permittivity of 3.4. The radiating patch is square, 8.89 cm on each side. This radiating patch lies 1.27 cm above the ground plane. The feeding microstrip line is 0.12 mm wide and has a characteristic impedance of 50 Ω. The aperture-coupling slot, etched in the ground plane, is 0.48 mm wide and 79.5 mm long. In order to maximize coupling, the microstrip line is extended beyond the middle of the slot by a length of 36 mm, which corresponds to a transmission-line electrical length of about a quarter wavelength. The other end of the microstrip line is transformed to a 50-Ω coplanar waveguide line, which is used for connection to a transmit/receive module. Some plated-through vias are added to the outer conductors of the coplanar waveguide to suppress parallelplate modes. The measured and calculated 10-dB-return-loss bandwidth of the antenna is 100 MHz.

By eliminating the radiating patch and the upper membrane that supports it, and performing two other simple modifications, one can convert the twomembrane antenna described above to a paper-thin single-membrane antenna, shown in the lower part of the figure. One modification is to increase the slot length to 104.95 mm; the other is to extend the microstrip to 36.68 mm past the middle of the slot. With these modifications, the slot now becomes a halfwavelength radiator with a nearly omnidirectional radiation pattern. In one potential use, such a paper-thin antenna could be pasted on an automobile window to enable omnidirectional communication.

This work was done by John Huang of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-41416.