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I'm relatively new to antennas. In most of the textbooks, it is said that we want to minimize standing waves in the transmission lines by matching the characteristic impedance of the line with the antenna's impedance.

My confusion is regarding the following two questions:

  1. If the antenna and the line are perfectly matched there are no standing waves in the line?
  2. If so, what happens to these traveling waves once they reach the end of the dipole antennas. Most pictures show that there are actually standing waves on two sides of the dipole. It is clearly seen here that there are standing waves:

Dipole antenna standing waves animation

Image source: "Animation showing the sinusoidal standing waves of voltage, V (red) and current, I (blue) on a half-wave dipole driven by an AC voltage at its resonant frequency" from Dipole characteristics on Wikipedia, Dipole antenna

Does it mean that standing waves occur in line as well?

PS. An excerpt from C. Balanis book on antennas third edition page 18, which clearly says that there are standing waves in the dipole antenna.

enter image description here

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I am the creator of the dipole animation above. There have been some excellent points made above. I think the reason there is still confusion over the question is that there is some missing information due to a slight inaccuracy in the animation (which is also present in all drawings of dipole standing waves in textbooks).

Yes, there are standing waves on the antenna. The dipole, in addition to being an antenna, is also a resonator. When fed at its resonant frequency, in addition to radiating, it stores energy in oscillating near-field electric and magnetic fields around the antenna, created by a wave of voltage and current bouncing back and forth between the ends of the antenna. The oppositely directed waves interfere to form a standing wave of voltage (red) and current (blue) on the antenna, shown in the animation.

The missing information is that the dipole is a fairly high Q resonator. This means the energy stored in the antenna from previous cycles is much larger than the energy added from the feedline each cycle, which is equal to the energy radiated as radio waves each cycle. Typical dipoles have a Q of 10 – 15; this means the stored energy is 10 – 15 times the energy added per cycle, so the peak voltage of the standing wave is 10 – 15 times the peak voltage on the feedline. Since the feed voltage is so small, this animation (as well as the graphs of dipole standing waves in textbooks) leaves it out: It just shows the standing waves, which represent the stored energy. It doesn't show the feed energy. To be accurate, this image represents an antenna storing energy, not radiating.

Notice that in the animation, the voltage difference (red bar) across the feedline is zero. To represent the feed voltage driving the oscillations in the antenna there should be a small oscillating voltage step across the feedline. I have drawn a more accurate animation showing this: Animation of dipole standing waves including feed voltage
(I also changed the current arrows to more accurately represent the slow speed of electrons in the antenna, and slowed down the animation)

In a transmission line transporting energy without reflection, the current and voltage are in phase. In a standing wave which is just storing energy not transporting it (as in a resonant stub), the current and voltage must be 90° out of phase. This is why the antenna current and voltage in the top animation are 90° out of phase, because they just show the stored energy. In the bottom animation, the phase difference on the inner parts of the elements differs a little from 90° due to the power flowing from the feedline into the elements.

If the feedline's characteristic impedance is matched to the antenna's impedance, there are no standing waves on the feedline. Note in the lower animation that, unlike the voltage standing wave, the feed voltage (the oscillating voltage step across the feedline) is in phase with the current in the antenna, which is also the current in the feedline. Therefore the impedance the antenna presents to the feedline is purely resistive, so (assuming it is matched to the line's characteristic impedance, as usual) there will be no power reflected back down the feedline, and no standing waves on it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much @Chetvorno, your answer clarified all the details! Now it makes sense \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17 '20 at 5:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Chetvorno I have a doubt about this excellent answer. Why does the standing wave only store energy? Let's consider the current standing wave: it's a real current, so it generates a surrounding time-variable magnetic field, as you also stated. Why is this not radiation, but only energy stored? Why doesn't it propagate? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kinka-Byo
    Dec 26 '20 at 16:01
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  1. If the antenna and the line are perfectly matched there are no standing waves in the line?

Correct. Standing waves occur as a result of reflections; if a reflected wave meets an incident wave on a transmission line they can interact to cause constructive and destructive interferance at certain points along the length of the transmission line, this is what causes "standing waves". Having a perfectly matched network means having no reflections and hence no standing waves.

  1. If so, what happens to these traveling waves once they reach the end of the dipole antennas.

Nothing special happens when they reach the end. The entire length of the antenna is responcible for coupling the wave into the air (or free space), which it does by oscillating at the frequency it is designed to transmit (think of it as vibrating when you shake it at a certain frequency).

The job of an antenna is to convert the impedance seen by the EM wave, from the 50ohm or 75ohm characteristic impedance of the transmission line, to the 377ohm impedance of free space. The better the antenna is, the less of the wave that reaches it will be reflected back into the cable, and the more will propagate through free space.

Most pictures show that there are actually standing waves on two sides of the dipole.

Correct. Although the antenna does not reflect any of the EM wave back unto the transmission line and cause standing waves in the transmission line, it does resonate at the frequency that it is designed to transmit at. Resonance however is not to be confused with standing waves.

I would advise you to read up on resonant circuits, I think it can help you understand what happens to the wave inside the antenna (it is roughly equivalent to a parallel RLC circuit)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your answer! Am I right that standing waves in antenna occur because antenna's and free space's impedances are not matched? Why don't we use 377Ohm antennas then? I'm also confused about your answer about the last part, where you say that it is correct that standing waves occur in the antenna, but then you say "does not .. cause standing waves in the transmission line". Standing waves occur in the antenna, even though there are no standing waves in the line? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3 '20 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Am I right that standing waves in antenna occur because antenna's and free space's impedances are not matched?". No, they occur because the antenna resonates. "Why don't we use 377Ohm antennas then?" We do, in a sense, all antennas are designed to couple to free space with an impedance of 377ohm, and to couple to the cable with an impedance of 50 or 75 ohm typ. "Standing waves occur in the antenna, even though there are no standing waves in the line?" Yes, again; read up on resonant circuits! you really need to understand them to be able to understand this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vinzent
    Feb 3 '20 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Having a perfectly matched network means having no reflections and hence no standing waves". I read about resonant circuit, and it makes sense. However, I'm still confused about standing waves in the dipole. What could you say about this explanation: youtube.com/watch?v=RF5r64fmFhU. Here he shows that standing waves in the dipole occur as a result of reflection from the open circuit of the feed, where the dipole is just a bended part of the line. And most of the books I read give similar explanation. Can you recommend any textbook about resonant circuit explanation of antennas? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 16 '20 at 6:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm sorry, but I cannot agree with you that "standing waves have E and M fields that are in phase". You want an exact reference, so here page 15 web.mit.edu/8.02t/www/802TEAL3D/visualizations/coursenotes/… it clearly says that " in standing electromagnetic waves, the two fields are 90° out of phase" \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21 '20 at 11:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ In addition, I've included an excerpt from Balanis's textbook, where he says that there are standing waves, "stop doing that", "there are no standing waves in the antenna!" So, I'm not making this up, but referring to what other competent authors are saying. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21 '20 at 12:07
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I would like just to add a comment on previous answer:

The TEM wave has its E and H field completely in phase. In the matched transmission line, also the voltage and current are in phase (no standing wave), hence the standing wave means that voltage and current (E and H field) are 90 degrees out of phase.

Before becoming a TEM wave it is "born" in the vicinity of the antenna, which itself exhibts this strange phenomena: the EM wave has E and H field out of phase - near field, and then it transforms to TEM with E and H in phase - far field.

So, it is really difficult to answer if the antenna has a standing wave or not, as it is somewhere in between of transformation from electric signal to EM wave.

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