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Portable-Handset Antennas

Using the Wheeler Cap

By Darioush Agahi and William Domino

Conexant Systems Inc.

antenna efficiency is a variable that can

have a great effect on overall system performance, and yet it may not always receive the

attention it deserves. For example, RF engineers must frequently make critical tradeoffs in

receiver design in order to improve sensitivity

by mere fractions of a dB, but a poor antenna

efficiency can easily cause a degradation of several dB. This pitfall can occur in systems such

as GSM, where many tests are performed using

a cable connection to the antenna port. A handset may easily pass such tests, only to be later

hampered by its antenna when used in the

field. This article is targeted at the very important parameter of antenna efficiency, and a

measurement technique that can be used to

quantify it.

Antenna efficiency must be distinguished

from antenna gain. Antenna gain is a directional quantity that refers to the signal strength

that can be obtained from an antenna relative to

a reference level, typically either an isotropic

source or a dipole. Efficiency, on the other hand,

quantifies the resistive loss of the antenna, in

terms of the proportion of power that is actually radiated versus the power that is first delivered to it. It is not a directional quantity.

The model

We model the antennas loss as a resistor

placed in series with the radiation resistance, as

shown in Figure 1. Since the model includes no

reactances, there is an implicit assumption that

the measurements must be taken at resonance.

The equations to be derived later require this

assumption.

The antenna efficiency (see Appendix) is

34 APPLIED MICROWAVE & WIRELESS

radiation and loss resistances.

PRAD

PRAD

RRAD

=

=

Pin

PRAD + PLOSS RRAD + RLOSS

(1)

Note that it is immaterial whether the antenna is matched to the source resistance RS. While

it is certainly desirable and necessary to match

the antenna in actual use, the match is not part

of the problem of finding the above resistance

ratio. Therefore, we need only to relate the radiated power to that which is transferred forward

at the point shown in Figure 1. What is needed,

then, is a way to effectively separate the resistances RLOSS and RRAD by way of measurement,

so that the efficiency can be calculated.

Wheeler [1] sets forth just such a method,

where a hollow conductive sphere is placed over

the antenna at the radius of transition between

the antennas energy-storing near-field and its

radius occurs at a distance of /2,

and thus the sphere is referred to as

the radiansphere. The role of the

conductive sphere is to reflect all of

the antennas radiation while causing minimal disturbance to the

near-field. In theory, a complete

sphere is appropriate for reflecting

the radiation of a small dipole,

which is an approximation of an

isotropic antenna. In practice, a

monopole with a ground plane can

be capped with a half-sphere. The

half-spherical Wheeler cap is

shown in Figure 2. For 900 MHz, Figure 2. Half-spherical Wheeler cap.

Figure 3. Cylindrical Wheeler cap.

the caps radius is 5.3 cm.

If all of the power radiated by

the antenna is reflected back by the cap and not allowed

PLOSS

= 1 S11WC 2

to escape, then in our model this is the equivalent of set(3)

PAVAIL

ting RRAD to zero. By making separate S11 measurements with the cap in place and with the cap removed,

we gather enough information to find the resistances

Cap off The radiation resistance is that of the

and the antennas efficiency.

antenna radiating into free space, and the antenna

The spherical or half-spherical cap is intended for reflection coefficient is measured and referred to as

physically small antennas; simple dipole or monopole S11FS. Then

antennas must therefore also be electrically short. Given

the caps radius, it is not possible to fit a monopole of

PRAD + PLOSS

= 1 S11FS 2

length /4 below it. To test such an antenna, we replace

(4)

PAVAIL

the half-spherical cap with a cylindrical cap, keeping the

radius at /2. Such a cylindrical cap is illustrated in

Figure 3.

We need only measure the magnitudes (and not the

signs) of S11WC and S11FS. The antenna efficiency

Efficiency of short antennas:

becomes

For an electrically short antenna (</10), the radiation resistance is typically small in comparison to the 50

ohm source resistance of the measuring system. The

radiation resistance of an ideal short monopole [2] is

L

RRAD MONO = 160 2

L <<

(2)

fits comfortably under the half-spherical cap, exhibits

about a 4 ohm radiation resistance. With such a small

value of RRAD, the power lost in the resistance RLOSS is

about the same whether the cap is in place or removed,

that is, with zero or finite RRAD. With the assumption of

constant power loss, we can make use of S11 magnitude

measurements with the cap on and off as follows:

Cap on The radiation resistance is zero, and the

antenna reflection coefficient is measured and referred

to as S11WC. Then

36 APPLIED MICROWAVE & WIRELESS

PRAD

=

PRAD + PLOSS

S11WC

S11FS

1 S11FS

2

2

1 S

11FS 1 S11WC

2

1 S

11

FS

(5)

(6)

the reflection coefficient magnitude measurements,

without any need to actually determine RRAD and RLOSS.

It should still be noted that the measurements must be

made at resonance, because the loss model is based on

vector S11 values that are all-real, even though only

their magnitudes are needed in the above equations.

Equation (6) appears in [3] in a survey of previous

techniques. This method was likely developed to make it

possible to obtain an antenna efficiency measurement

using only reflectometer-type reflection-coefficient measurements, where only the magnitude of S11 is measured. In this case the method further depends on the

point. For our example of a 1/20-wavelength monopole,

suppose the measurements are

S11

WC

= 0.966

S11

FS

= 0.823

antenna radiating into free space, and the antenna

reflection coefficient is S11FS. Then

S11FS =

= 79.3%

( RRAD + RLOSS ) RS

( RRAD + RLOSS ) + RS

(9)

penalty of

RLOSS 1 + S11WC

=

1 S11WC

RS

(10)

10 log(79.3%) = 1.0 dB

Such an efficiency is not atypical, and some antennas

have been measured to be even less than 50 percent efficient, which corresponds to a power loss of more than 3

dB. This power loss is a direct degradation of the receiver sensitivity and the transmitter output power, relative

to a cable-connection test. Such a transmitter power loss

would greatly degrade the handset s battery life, and, in

cellular systems that tend to be uplink-limited, it would

affect the ability of the handset to obtain service in marginal areas. In a 1/8-duty-cycle GSM system operating at

full transmit power of 2 ohms with a 50 percent efficient

antenna, the resistive heating of the antenna would

amount to 1/8 ohm!

As the antenna becomes longer, its radiation resistance increases, and the assumption of constant power

loss with and without the cap breaks down. In this case

a method of efficiency measurement that directly makes

use of the quantities RRAD and RLOSS is preferred.

Fortunately, modern vector network analyzers can provide a direct display of the impedance of a measured

device when performing a reflection coefficient measurement. So we make use of the resistance ratio in (1)

rather than the power ratio:

RRAD

RRAD + RLOSS

(11)

FS

1 S11FS

RS

RRAD

=

RRAD + RLOSS

= 1

the constant-loss-resistor method

1 + S11FS 1 + S11WC

1 S

1 S

11FS

11WC

1 + S11FS

1 S

11FS

(1 S )(1 + S )

(1 + S )(1 S )

11FS

11WC

11FS

11WC

(12)

(13)

Equation (6) regardless of the absolute value of RRAD

(and thereby of the antenna length). Its one disadvantage lies in the fact that the signs of the (all-real) S11

measurements must be retained and accounted for in

the calculation, making for somewhat less convenience.

But it exactly reproduces the resistance ratio at any

level of antenna efficiency, as opposed to Equation (6)

which becomes less accurate at lower efficiencies.

As an example, consider a low-efficiency monopole,

where the S11 measurements are:

(7)

S11

than the power lost in it, remains constant with the cap

in place or removed. If desired, we can still express the

efficiency in terms of the reflection coefficients:

WC

= 0.626

S11

FS

= 0.325

= 54.9% = 2.6 dB

while that calculated from eq. (6) is

antenna reflection coefficient is S11WC. Then

S11WC =

RLOSS RS

RLOSS + RS

(8)

= 32.0% = 4.9 dB

The value of efficiency calculated by the constantpower-loss method is unnecessarily pessimistic. This

discrepancy between the methods occurs with longer

the two methods of calculation. Figure 4 is

plotted for an RRAD of 4 ohms (our shortantenna case) while Figure 5 is for an RRAD

of 14 ohms (a longer antenna). In the 4 ohm

case the curves agree down to about 75 percent, while in the 14 ohm case they quickly

diverge. In either case the constant-lossresistor method is more accurate, as it

agrees with the resistance ratio. This illustrates that the constant-power-loss method

is accurate only for small radiation resistances and high efficiency.

practical considerations

Figure 4. Efficiency vs. RLOSS for an antenna with 4 ohms radiation

In the above derivations it was assumed

resistance.

that the radiation and loss resistances are

not accompanied by any reactive impedances; therefore the S11 measurements

need to be made at the antenna's actual

resonance, as defined by the point where

S11 is all-real. For an ideal lossless antenna

and perfectly-reflecting Wheeler cap, the

S11 measurements would be 1 with the cap

on and zero with the cap off, and we need to

find the points of all-real impedance that

most closely approach these. They may or

may not be precisely the same as where the

magnitude |S11| is minimized, as illustrated in Figure 6, and so it is advisable to view

the measurements on a Smith chart display

rather than a log-magnitude grid. These

points should not be too far apart.

It is especially true that the free space

measurement should be done at the actual

Figure 5. Efficiency vs. RLOSS for an antenna with 14 ohms radiation resonance instead of the antenna's nominal

resistance.

operating frequency F0. This is because the

antenna is normally loaded down when

installed on the handset, and it is expected

antennas that inherently exhibit a large RRAD.

that there should be a small shift when it is removed

Next we plot the calculated efficiency vs. a swept and placed on a different ground plane. A rule of thumb

40 APPLIED MICROWAVE & WIRELESS

Appendix

The derivation of Equation (1), which also appears

in [2], page 48, is duplicated here. In the ideal case,

with no disturbances to the antenna, and a perfect

match, the input resistance represents the dissipation

loss of the antenna. This resistance represents the

sum of radiation resistance and ohmic resistance.

Rin = RRAD + RLOSS

(a1)

antenna is Iin then the average power dissipated in an

antenna is

Pin =

Figure 8. A pictorial diagram of the fixture used for measurements with and without the Wheeler cap.

shift is 10% of F0. De-tuning beyond this could impact

the accuracy of the measurement, as it means the actual-usage environment differs too much from the measuring setup.

Conclusion

The Wheeler cap provides a convenient and reasonably accurate method of determining antenna efficiency.

For practical use, it consists of a cap over a ground

plane, usually of a simpler shape than the ideal halfsphere, such as a cylinder, maintaining the /2 radius.

Figure 8 shows a test fixture with a removable Wheeler

cap. The efficiency is best determined by measurement

of the antenna resistance with the cap in place and

removed, each taken at the resonance defined as the allreal impedance point.

Author information

Darioush Agahi is the Director of RF Systems

Engineering at Conexant Systems in Newport Beach,

CA. He may be reached via email at darioush.

agahi@conexant.com.

(a2)

1

( RRAD + RLOSS ) Iin 2

2

1

1

2

2

= RRAD Iin + RLOSS Iin

2

2

Pin =

Or equivalently,

PRAD =

1

2

RRAD Iin

2

(a3)

PLOSS =

1

2

RLOSS Iin

2

(a4)

and (a4) yields,

References

1. H. A. Wheeler, The Radiansphere Around a Small

Antenna, Proceedings of the IRE, Vol. 47, August 1959.

2. W. L. Stutzman and G. A. Thiele, Antenna Theory

and Design, Wiley, New York, 1981.

3. R. H. Johnston, L. P. Ager, and J. G. McRory, A

New Small Antenna Efficiency Measurement Method,

IEEE 1996 Antennas and Propagation Society

International Symposium, Vol. 1.

1

2

Rin Iin

2

PRAD

PRAD

=

Pin

PRAD + PLOSS

1

2

RRAD Iin

2

=

1

1

2

2

RRAD Iin + RLOSS Iin

2

2

PRAD

PRAD + PLOSS

Systems Engineering at Conexant Systems. He may be

reached via email at william.domino@conexant.com.

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