# What does the radiation from an antenna look like?

Just out of curiosity, I searched for antenna on Google Images, and what usually shows is something like this. So I really thought that an antenna radiates in a circular and equal pattern. But as I read the specs of an antenna and understand terms like DBI and Polarization I got more confused. So my question is, what does the signal radiating from an antenna really look like?

Update

For example, how can we draw this linear polarization inside this?

• I think thats a perfectly valid question. The debate might be whether its a wave or not. My personal view is that the antenna emits particles at a certain rate in a certain direction. One visualisation is as good as the next, but the truth is we cannot see how it really is we can only come up with abstractions. – crowie Dec 9 '16 at 8:12
• May want to play with falstad.com/antenna. – JimmyB Dec 9 '16 at 10:47
• It looks like light, only bigger. – user56384 Dec 9 '16 at 14:37
• For future reference, try not to draw scientific conclusions from UI icons. :) – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 10 '16 at 1:59

This image:

Is just a drawing, it has no meaning. It does not represent the radiation pattern of an antenna in any way !

Basically all antennas radiate (and receive) the EM waves in all directions. However, depending on the design it might not radiate and receive in some direction very well but it might do so in a different direction very well. Those are the red parts in the radiation patterns below.

Real Antenna radiation patterns look like this:

For an isotropic radiator in this case.

Or this one for a dish antenna:

There are as many radiation patterns as there are antenna types.

Antenna designers generally use an EM simulator, for example CST, to calculate/simulate the antenna radiation pattern of a certain antenna structure.

How can we draw this linear polarization in the radiation pattern ?

These radiation patterns do not show the polarization. Since the polarization is usually in the direction of the length of the antenna it also depends on how you place the antenna. Of course, the radiation pattern changes with that placement also.

• Thanks @FakeMoustache for a quick reply but The image is just my first view on antenna, what I don't understand is how does these sine waves travel on the lobe based on the last picture you've post where in there are these polarization thingyyy.? – Black Dec 9 '16 at 8:39
• The last picture is a the pattern of a dish antenna like asia.ru/images/target/photo/51336884/Satellite_Dish_Antenna.jpg The actual antenna sits on the end of that stick and it sends the waves to the disc, which reflects them in one direction hence the lobe. All waves are guided/reflected to that direction so they add up. – Bimpelrekkie Dec 9 '16 at 10:05
• Polarization is defined by how you place the antenna like horizontal or vertical. Diagonal is also possible but that is really just 50% horizontal and 50% vertical. You do not see the polarization in these radiation patterns. So polarization is more about how you place the antenna (horizontal or vertical). There's also rotating polarization, using a corkscrew shaped Helix antenna: reliantemc.com/images/product%20images/schwarzbeck/… – Bimpelrekkie Dec 9 '16 at 10:11
• @FakeMoustache It might be good to point out that the same principle works for light (as it is just another form of EM radiation, after all). en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parabolic_reflector – JAB Dec 9 '16 at 16:43
• @user7040804 How the sine waves travel on the lobe is sort of represented by the first picture, which this answer claims "has no meaning". – Kaz Dec 9 '16 at 23:07

It really depends on the kind of antenna. Google will probably answer this with pictures better than I will (Google "antenna radiation pattern").

You will distinguish in shape of radiation mainly 2 kinds of antenna:

Directional: They radiate most of its energy in one direction (front) , some of it in the opposite direction (back) and a little portion of the Signal is dispersed around the antenna but in much less strength. Something like:

Source: Wikipedia

Omnidirectional: Though an ideally omnidirectional (x,y,z) antenna is impossible de refer as those which are omnidirectional in 2 axis rather than 3. It's radiation pattern is described as a kind of doughnut. Can't post more links, but you will see it if you Google

Here is a fairly complete list of most of the antenna types if you are interested: www.antenna-theory.com/m/antennas/main.php

EDIT: For your comments about the polarity of the antenna's signal I am guessing that your doubt is more related to how the waves travel through the air more than in which pattern they do it.

The diagrams posted by @FakeMoustache show the density of waves in space, this EM waves have a polarity that is defined by the kind of antenna we are using. In the end, the polarity means in which plain is the pulse traveling, either X or Y (So vertical or horizontal polarization) which is determined by the E field as shown in the picture below.

Are you asking about the shape of the EM waves? Seems that way.

The other answers do not show this. Instead they show the graphs of wattage versus direction (the "radiation pattern,") or graphs of voltage versus distance (the voltage sine wave.) But "watts/cm^2" is not a direction in space, and the graph of radiation pattern does not show the shape of waves. And, voltage is not a direction, so that "polarization graph" does not depict transverse waves; it only depicts the field-intensity along a narrow straight line.

For example, how can we draw this linear polarization inside this?

Neither of those shows the actual EM waves. The second is a graph of power output, not EM shapes. The first is a graph of voltage and of magnetic potential, not of transverse directions.

The actual EM waves from an antenna are sphere waves. The power level doesn't alter the shape of the waves. The sphere-waves contain no sine-shaped wiggles. When emitted from a tower, they spread out starting from the base of the tower (from the ground connection,) not from the tip as shown in pop-culture drawings of radio towers. The most intense waves travel horizontally. Vertically the intensity is zero.

Here's the MIT open courseware animation of e-field lines and EM waves coming from a small dipole antenna in the center. The EM waves take the form of expanding concentric spheres. Note that in the vertical direction the wave-intensity is zero, while in the horizontal direction it's maximum. In this video, for a tower-antenna rather than a dipole, instead we would draw a horizontal line to show the ground surface, then erase the waves inside the earth.

The above animation only shows the e-field part of the EM sphere-waves. The magnetic component is there too: circles of flux oriented at 90deg to the e-field flux. Like this below: