Conformal Printed Antennas Design using FDTD Simulation

In many applications pertaining to missile, satellite, spacecraft and aircraft a directive antenna mounted on a curved body is required. Conforming the antenna to the surface save space and is often essential for structural reasons. An antenna that conforms to a surface whose shape is determined by considerations other than electromagnetic; for example, aerodynamic or hydrodynamic called conformal Antenna. Microstrip antenna technology is most suitable for conformal applications because of their ability to conform to non-planar structures. Microstrip antenna patches are placed above what may be characterized as a conducting plane with a dielectric substrate separating the patch from the conducting plane. The properties of such an array depend strongly on whether it is small compared to the radius of curvature of mounting body, in which case it behaves nearly like a planner array or whether it is comparable or large to the radius.

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Conformal antenna may be put in the belly of aircraft then there is no need of radome. Besides this, shaping and resolution can be improved by using conformal antenna as more elements can be accommodated. In conformal antenna it is found that resonance frequency is same for various curvatures. However as curvature increases the pattern broadens.  The aperture design of the conformal array is predicted on the knowledge of the patterns and coupling coefficients in the mutual coupling environment. The analysis and synthesis of conformal array is slightly more complicated than linear array with uniform spacing because the array elements point in different directions.

Antenna Design

For the analysis of conformal array antennas the knowledge of the mutual coupling among the radiating elements and the radiation patterns of individual elements are essential ingredients. The first step in the analysis of conformal antennas is to find the electromagnetic field on the surface or in space in the presence of an arbitrary shaped body. If the geometry is complex there are several reliable numerical procedures, e.g. the moment method, that are available for solving the radiation problem.

conf2Best way to design conformal antenna is first to design rectangular patch antenna of array of microstrip patch antenna, then conform this geometry over curved surface and re-optimize design. As resonant frequency does not change with curved surface, same dimensions of the patch of planar surface is modeled over a cylindrical surface. Patch dimensions and width of the feed line are calculated is same way as of microstrip antenna array. Final optimization is carried out using Electromagnetic CAD software.

conf3.jpgThis  is example of one 220-element waveguide-fed microstrip patch array.To reduce the feed loss, a slotted waveguide is used instead of the main feed line to feed the microstrip patch array. To simplify the manufacture procedure, the slots of the waveguide are etched on the ground plane of the dielectric substrate, and the etched ground plane serves as the upper wall of the waveguide. The cover of this planar array is made of the dielectric substrate and its relative dielectric constant is the same as that of the dielectric substrate under the patch array. The slotted waveguide is excited by a coaxial probe at the center of the bottom wall of the waveguide. The two ends of the waveguide are shorted.

After optimizing rectangular array, this is converted in conformal antenna array as shown below.

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conf6.pngSimulated result of this conformal antenna using Finite Time domain Difference ( FDTD) is shown below. The main advantage of this center-fed structure is that it avoids beam squint with frequency. The slotted waveguide is regarded as a linear array, and each waveguide-fed subarray is supposed to be an element of this linear array. If this linear array is end-fed, confessedly, the beam squints with frequency. The center-fed slotted waveguide is equivalent to a two-element linear array, and each array element is an end-fed linear array whose array elements are waveguide-fed subarray.

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