Microstrip-patch-style antennas that generate monopole radiation patterns similar to those of quarter-wave whip antennas can be designed to have dimensions smaller than those needed heretofore for this purpose, by taking advantage of a feed configuration different from the conventional one. The large sizes necessitated by the conventional feed configuration have, until now, made such antennas impractical for frequencies below about 800 MHz: for example, at 200 MHz, the conventional feed configuration necessitates a patch diameter of about 8 ft (≈2.4 m) — too large, for example, for mounting on the roof of an automobile or on a small or medium-size aircraft. By making it possible to reduce diameters to between a tenth and a third of that necessitated by the conventional feed configuration, the modified configuration makes it possible to install such antennas in places where they could not previously be installed and thereby helps to realize the potential advantages (concealment and/or reduction of aerodynamic drag) of microstrip versus whip antennas.

The Inductive-Short-Circuit Feed Configuration of this microstrip- style antenna makes it possible for the antenna to have a smaller diameter and still radiate efficiently.
In both the conventional approach and the innovative approach, a microstrip-patch (or microstrip-patch-style) antenna for generating a monopole radiation pattern includes an electrically conductive patch or plate separated from an electrically conductive ground plane by a layer of electrically insulating material. In the conventional approach, the electrically insulating layer is typically a printed-circuit board about 1/16 in. (≈1.6 mm) thick. Ordinarily, a coaxial cable from a transmitter, receiver, or transceiver is attached at the center on the groundplane side, the shield of the cable being electrically connected to the ground plane. In the conventional approach, the coaxial cable is mated with a connector mounted on the ground plane. The center pin of this connector connects to the center of the coaxial cable and passes through a hole in the ground plane and a small hole in the insulating layer and then connects with the patch above one-third of the radial distance from the center.

The modified feed configuration of the innovative approach is an inductive-shortcircuit configuration that provides impedance matching and that has been used for many years on other antennas but not on microstrip-style monopole antennas. In this configuration, the pin is connected to both the conductive patch and the ground plane. As before, the shield of the coaxial cable is connected to the ground plane, but now the central conductor is connected to a point on the pin between the ground plane and the conductive plate (see figure). The location of the connection point on the pin is chosen so that together, the inductive short circuit and the conductive plate or patch act as components of a lumped-element resonant circuit that radiates efficiently at the resonance frequency and, at the resonance frequency, has an impedance that matches that of the coaxial cable.

It should be noted that the innovative design entails two significant disadvantages. One disadvantage is that the frequency bandwidth for efficient operation is only about 1/20 to 1/15 that of a whip antenna designed for the same nominal frequency. The other disadvantage is that the estimated gain is between 3-1/2 and 4-1/2 dB below that of the whip antenna. However, if an affected radio-communication system used only a few adjacent frequency channels and the design of the components of the system other than the antenna provided adequate power or gain margin, then these disadvantages could be overcome.

This work was done by W. Robert Young of Langley Research Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Electronics/Computers category. LAR-16330

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the July, 2004 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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