Microstrip Antenna - Feeding Methods

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Inset Feed

Previously, the patch antenna was fed at the end as shown here. Since this typically yields a high input impedance, we would like to modify the feed. Since the current is low at the ends of a half-wave patch and increases in magnitude toward the center, the input impedance (Z=V/I) could be reduced if the patch was fed closer to the center. One method of doing this is by using an inset feed (a distance R from the end) as shown in Figure 1.

patch antennas with inset feed

Figure 1. Patch Antenna with an Inset Feed.

Since the current has a sinusoidal distribution, moving in a distance R from the end will increase the current by cos(pi*R/L) - this is just noting that the wavelength is 2*L, and so the phase difference is 2*pi*R/(2*L) = pi*R/L.

The voltage also decreases in magnitude by the same amount that the current increases. Hence, using Z=V/I, the input impedance scales as:

input impedance scaled due to inset feed

In the above equation, Zin(0) is the input impedance if the patch was fed at the end. Hence, by feeding the patch antenna as shown, the input impedance can be decreased. As an example, if R=L/4, then cos(pi*R/L) = cos(pi/4), so that [cos(pi/4)]^2 = 1/2. Hence, a (1/8)-wavelength inset would decrease the input impedance by 50%. This method can be used to tune the input impedance to the desired value.

Fed with a Quarter-Wavelength Transmission Line

The microstrip antenna can also be matched to a transmission line of characteristic impedance Z0 by using a quarter-wavelength transmission line of characteristic impedance Z1 as shown in Figure 2.

microstrip antenna with an impedance matching section

Figure 2. Patch antenna with a quarter-wavelength matching section.

The goal is to match the input impedance (Zin) to the transmission line (Z0). If the impedance of the antenna is ZA, then the input impedance viewed from the beginning of the quarter-wavelength line becomes

input impedance viewed from a quarter-wavelength section

This input impedance Zin can be altered by selection of the Z1, so that Zin=Z0 and the antenna is impedance matched. The parameter Z1 can be altered by changing the width of the quarter-wavelength strip. The wider the strip is, the lower the characteristic impedance (Z0) is for that section of line.

Coaxial Cable or Probe Feed

Microstrip antennas can also be fed from underneath via a probe as shown in Figure 3. The outer conductor of the coaxial cable is connected to the ground plane, and the center conductor is extended up to the patch antenna.

coaxial cable feed or driver for patch antennas

Figure 3. Coaxial cable feed of patch antenna.

The position of the feed can be altered as before (in the same way as the inset feed, above) to control the input impedance.

The coaxial feed introduces an inductance into the feed that may need to be taken into account if the height h gets large (an appreciable fraction of a wavelength). In addition, the probe will also radiate, which can lead to radiation in undesirable directions.

Coupled (Indirect) Feeds

The feeds above can be altered such that they do not directly touch the antenna. For instance, the probe feed in Figure 3 can be trimmed such that it does not extend all the way up to the antenna. The inset feed can also be stopped just before the patch antenna, as shown in Figure 4.

coupled or indirect inset feed

Figure 4. Coupled (indirect) inset feed.

The advantage of the coupled feed is that it adds an extra degree of freedom to the design. The gap introduces a capacitance into the feed that can cancel out the inductance added by the probe feed.

Aperture Feeds

Another method of feeding microstrip antennas is the aperture feed. In this technique, the feed circuitry (transmission line) is shielded from the antenna by a conducting plane with a hole (aperture) to transmit energy to the antenna, as shown in Figure 5.

aperture coupled feed for microstrip antennas

Figure 5. Aperture coupled feed.

The upper substrate can be made with a lower permittivity to produce loosely bound fringing fields, yielding better radiation. The lower substrate can be independently made with a high value of permittivity for tightly coupled fields that don't produce spurious radiation. The disadvantage of this method is increased difficulty in fabrication.

Tradeoffs and Design for Microstrip Antennas

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