Deployable Fresnel rings (DFRs) significantly enhance the realizable gain of an antenna. This innovation is intended to be used in combination with another antenna element, as the DFR itself acts as a focusing or microwave lens element for a primary antenna. This method is completely passive, and is also completely wireless in that it requires neither a cable, nor a connector from the antenna port of the primary antenna to the DFR.

Figure 1. Microstrip Patch Antenna + DFR used in the experimental setup for testing transmitted power enhancement using the DFR.
The technology improves upon the previous NASA technology called a Tri- Sector Deployable Array Antenna in at least three critical aspects. In contrast to the previous technology, this innovation requires no connector, cable, or other physical interface to the primary communication radio or sensor device. The achievable improvement in terms of antenna gain is significantly higher than has been achieved with the previous technology. Also, where previous embodiments of the Tri-Sector antenna have been constructed with combinations of conventional (e.g., printed circuit board) and conductive fabric materials, this innovation is realized using only conductive and non-conductive fabric (i.e., “e-textile”) materials, with the possible exception of a spring-like deployment ring.

Conceptually, a DFR operates by canceling the out-of-phase radiation at a plane by insertion of a conducting ring or rings of a specific size and distance from the source antenna, defined by Fresnel zones. Design of DFRs follow similar procedures to those outlined for conventional Fresnel zone rings.

Gain enhancement using a single ring is verified experimentally and through computational simulation. The experimental test setup involves a microstrip patch antenna that is directly behind a single-ring DFR and is radiating towards a second microstrip patch antenna. The first patch antenna and DFR are shown in Figure 1. At 2.42 GHz, the DFR im proves the transmit antenna gain by 8.6 dB, as shown in Figure 2, relative to the wireless link without the DFR. Figure 2 illustrates the relative strength of power coupling between the first and second microstrip antennas with and without the DFR. Typically, a DFR is designed for use at a particular frequency; however, testing of a DFR indicated a relatively wide operational bandwidth of approximately 8.2%. Wider bandwidth operation and multi-band operation are anticipated by extending the known art of conventional Fresnel rings to the DFRs.

Figure 2. Relative Power received using the DFR and without the DFR.
Increasing the number of rings used to construct a DFR antenna increases the gain, with the upper bound limited often by the largest practical dimensions that can be tolerated for a given application. The maximum theoretical improvement in gain for a single ring is 9.5 dB. Experimental results are within 0.9 dB of this theoretical value. Adding rings increases gain, and theoretically, improvements of 10 to 13 dB above that of the primary antenna gain can be achieved with two- and three-ring versions.

This work was done by Timothy F. Kennedy, Patrick W. Fink, Andrew W. Chu, and Gregory Y. Lin of Johnson Space Center.

This invention has been patented by NASA U.S. Patent No. 8,384,614. Inquiries concerning nonexclusive or exclusive license for its commercial development should be addressed to the Patent Counsel, Johnson Space Center, (281) 483-1003. MSC-24525-1