Effective Area (Effective Aperture)

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A useful parameter calculating the receive power of an antenna is the effective area or effective aperture. Assume that a plane wave with the same polarization as the receive antenna is incident upon the antenna. Further assume that the wave is travelling towards the antenna in the antenna's direction of maximum radiation (the direction from which the most power would be received).

Then the effective aperture parameter describes how much power is captured from a given plane wave. Let p be the power density of the plane wave (in W/m^2). If P_t represents the power (in Watts) at the antennas terminals available to the antenna's receiver, then:

received power from an antenna from a plane wave

Hence, the effective area simply represents how much power is captured from the plane wave and delivered by the antenna. This area factors in the losses intrinsic to the antenna (ohmic losses, dielectric losses, etc.).

A general relation for the effective aperture in terms of the peak antenna gain (G) of any antenna is given by:

effective aperture as a function of peak gain and wavelength

Effective aperture or effective area can be measured on actual antennas by comparison with a known antenna with a given effective aperture, or by calculation using the measured gain and the above equation.

Effective aperture will be a useful concept for calculating received power from a plane wave. To see this in action, go to the next section on the Friis transmission formula.

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