In radiometer applications, it is required to design antennas that meet low average sidelobe levels and low average return loss over a specified frequency bandwidth. It is a challenge to meet such specifications over a frequency range when one uses resonant elements such as waveguide feed slots. In addition to their inherent narrow frequency band performance, the problem is exacerbated due to modeling errors and manufacturing tolerances. There was a need to develop a design methodology to solve the problem.

The Slot Array Architecture consists of four machined mechanical layers forming three electrical layers as shown in the figure.
An iterative design procedure was developed by starting with an array architecture, lattice spacing, aperture distribution, waveguide dimensions, etc. The array was designed using Elliott’s technique with appropriate values of the total slot conductance in each radiating waveguide, and the total resistance in each feed waveguide. Subsequently, the array performance was analyzed by the full wave method of moments solution to the pertinent integral equations. Monte Carlo simulations were also carried out to account for amplitude and phase errors introduced for the aperture distribution due to modeling errors as well as manufacturing tolerances. If the design margins for the average sidelobe level and the average return loss were not adequate, array architecture, lattice spacing, aperture distribution, and waveguide dimensions were varied in subsequent iterations. Once the design margins were found to be adequate, the iteration was stopped and a good design was achieved.

A symmetric array architecture was found to meet the design specification with adequate margin.

The specifications were near –40 dB for angular regions beyond 30 degrees from broadside. Separable Taylor distribution with nbar=4 and –35 dB sidelobe specification was chosen for each principal plane. A non-separable distribution obtained by the genetic algorithm was found to have similar characteristics. The element spacing was obtained to provide the required beamwidth and close to a null in the E-plane end-fire direction. Because of the alternating slot offsets, grating lobes called butterfly lobes are produced in non-principal planes close to the H-plane. An attempt to reduce the influence of such grating lobes resulted in a symmetric design.

This work was done by Sembiam Rengarajan, Mark S. Zawadzki, and Richard E. Hodges of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-48481

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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