Reflector Antennas

A reflector antennas spherical wavefront (one in which the energy spreads out in all directions) spreads out as it travels away and produces a pattern that is not very directional. A wavefront that exists in only one plane does not spread because all of the wavefront moves forward in the same direction.

For reflector antennas to be highly directive, they must change the normally spherical wavefront into a plane wavefront. Many highly directive microwave antennas produce a plane wavefront by using a reflector to focus the radiated energy. PARABOLIC REFLECTOR antennas are most often used for high directivity.

Microwaves travel in straight lines as do light rays. They can also be focused and reflected just as light rays can, as illustrated by the antenna shown in the figure below. A microwave source is placed at focal point F. The field leaves this antenna as a spherical wavefront. As each part of the wavefront reaches the reflecting surface, it is phase-shifted 180 degrees. Each part is then sent outward at an angle that results in all parts of the field traveling in parallel paths. Because of the special shape of a parabolic surface, all paths from F to the reflector and back to line XY are the same length. Therefore, when the parts of the field are reflected from the parabolic surface, they travel to line XY in the same amount of time.

Parabolic reflector radiation.

If a dipole is used as the source of transmission, energy will be radiated from the reflector antennas into space as well as toward the reflector. Energy which is not directed toward the paraboloid has a wide-beam characteristic which will destroy the narrow pattern of the parabolic reflector. However, a HEMISPHERICAL SHIELD (not shown) may be used to direct most of the radiation toward the parabolic surface and thus prevent the destruction of the narrow pattern.

Direct radiation into space is eliminated, the beam is made sharper, and more power is concentrated in the beam. Without the shield, some of the radiated field would leave the radiator directly. Since this part of the field that would leave the radiator would not be reflected, it would not become a part of the main beam and could serve no useful purpose.

In the first figure below the radiation pattern of a paraboloid reflector contains a major lobe and several minor lobes. The major lobe is directed along the axis of revolution. Very narrow beams are possible with this type of reflector. The next figure illustrates the basic paraboloid reflector.

Parabolic reflector radiation.

Basic paraboloid reflector.

You may see several variations of the basic paraboloid reflector used to produce different beam shapes required by special applications. The basic characteristics of the most commonly used paraboloids are presented in the following paragraphs.

Truncated Paraboloid

The figure below shows a TRUNCATED PARABOLOID. Since the reflector is parabolic in the horizontal plane, the energy is focused into a narrow beam. With the reflector TRUNCATED (cut) so that it is shortened vertically, the beam spreads out vertically instead of being focused. This fan-shaped beam is used in radar detection applications for the accurate determination of bearing. Since the beam is spread vertically, it will detect aircraft at different altitudes without changing the tilt of the antenna. The truncated paraboloid also works well for surface search radar applications to compensate for the pitch and roll of the ship.


The truncated paraboloid may be used in target height-finding systems if the reflector is rotated 90 degrees, as shown in the next figure. Since the reflector is now parabolic in the vertical plane, the energy is focused vertically into a narrow beam. If the reflector is truncated, or cut, so that it is shortened horizontally, the beam will spread out horizontally instead of being focused. Such a fan-shaped beam is used to accurately determine elevation.


Orange-Peel Paraboloid

A section of a complete circular paraboloid, often called an ORANGE-PEEL REFLECTOR because of its orange-peel shape, is shown in the figure below. Since the reflector is narrow in the horizontal plane and wide in the vertical plane, it produces a beam that is wide in the horizontal plane and narrow in the vertical plane. In shape, the beam resembles a huge beaver tail.

The microwave energy is sent into the parabolic reflector by a horn radiator (not shown) which is fed by a waveguide. The horn radiation pattern covers nearly the entire shape of the reflector, so almost all of the microwave energy strikes the reflector and very little escapes at the sides. Antenna systems which use orange-peel paraboloids are often used in height-finding equipment.

Orange peel paraboloid.

Cylindrical Paraboloid

When a beam of radiated energy that is noticeably wider in one cross-sectional dimension than in another is desired, a cylindrical paraboloidal section which approximates a rectangle can be used. The next figure illustrates such an antenna. A PARABOLIC CYLINDER has a parabolic cross section in just one dimension which causes the reflector to be directive in one plane only. The cylindrical paraboloid reflector is fed either by a linear array of dipoles, a slit in the side of a waveguide, or by a thin waveguide radiator.

It also has a series of focal points forming a straight line rather than a single focal point. Placing the radiator, or radiators, along this focal line produces a directed beam of energy. As the width of the parabolic section is changed, different beam shapes are obtained. You may see this type of antenna system used in search radar systems and in ground control approach (gca) radar systems


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