Microwave antennas are most commonly used to wireless transfer information or power between two or more locations through line of sight. First demonstrated in 1931, microwave transmission is used increasingly today for direct-broadcast satellites and developing telecommunications technology. Future applications may even see the use of microwave antennas to beam power back to Earth in space-based solar power generation.
Microwave antennas are designed to transmit and receive electromagnetic radiation within a particular wavelength that makes them best suited for point-to-point communications. Today, they’re most widely used in the transmission of analog and digital signals such as computer data, telephone calls, and radio and television programming.
Types of Microwave Antennas and Their Uses
There are several different designs of microwave antennas in use. Each style of antenna is best suited to a different purpose or industry. Here’s a brief overview of the different types of microwave antennas and their uses.
Micro Strip Patch Antenna
Patch antennas consist of a radiating patch — typically made of copper or gold — that is grounded to an insulator on one side and a grounding plate on the other. Patch antennas are known for their high performance and wide range of use. They are commonly used in applications such as cell phones and GPS.
Also referred to as a microwave horn, these antennae are typically megaphone-like in appearance and are used to transmit radio waves in a directional beam. Horn antennae are widely used in devices that require directive transmission, such as automatic opening doors, radar guns, and microwave radiometers.
Most commonly seen in dish form and often referred to as a parabolic dish, parabolic antennas are high-gain antennas used in applications such as wireless WAN/LAN links, satellite and spacecraft communications, radio telescopes, and in the transference of telephone and television data over relative distances, such as between neighboring cities.
Plasma antennas are unique in that they use ionized gas plasma as a conductive material instead of the metal elements that are traditionally used in antenna. Plasma antenna technology is still a developing technology, but some think it just may revolutionize the future of high-speed, high-frequency wireless. Plasma antennas are difficult to detect and can quickly adjust to frequency-jamming signals, making them extremely useful in military and defense applications. Other potential applications include wireless gigabit communications, vehicular radar guns, and intelligent transport systems.
Standing for multiple-input and multiple-output, MIMO makes use of multiple transmission and reception antennas to increase transfer capacity and improve performance by sending and receiving more than one data signal per channel. MIMO technology is most well-known for its use in increasing the capacity of cellular networks. MIMO also has potential applications in short-range microwave imaging systems such as those used in biomedical imaging and concealed weapons detection systems.