Polarized Antennas

Polarized antennas play a critical role in wireless communication systems. The polarization of an antenna refers to the direction of the electromagnetic field produced by the antenna as energy radiates away from it. This directional property is essential in determining how effectively energy is transmitted or received by an antenna. Among the various types of antenna polarization, linear polarization is the most common one, where the electric field vector remains parallel to a line in space as the waves travel.

In addition to linear polarization, other forms of polarization exist such as circular polarization and slant-polarization. Circular polarization is more complex than linear polarization, as the polarization represented by the electric field vector rotates as the signal propagates. This type of polarization is particularly useful in applications where the orientation of the transmitting and receiving antennas may vary, such as in satellite communication. On the other hand, slant-polarized antennas are beneficial when the polarization of one or both antennas is unknown or changes during use.

Understanding the different types of antenna polarization and their applications is crucial in designing efficient communication systems. By selecting the appropriate polarization, engineers can optimize signal strength and minimize interference, ultimately improving the performance and reliability of wireless networks.

Polarization Basics

Polarization is a fundamental property of electromagnetic waves, such as radio frequency (RF) waves, which are used in polarized antennas. It refers to the orientation of electric fields as energy radiates away from or is received by an antenna. Polarization plays an important role in wireless communication systems, as it can affect the antenna performance and signal quality.

Polarization in Nature

In nature, polarization occurs when light and other electromagnetic waves interact with objects and surfaces. For example, sunlight becomes partially polarized when it is scattered in the atmosphere or reflected off water, snow, and other surfaces. This effect can cause glare and reduce visibility. Understanding the natural polarization phenomenon can help engineers design more effective antennas, as they can choose the appropriate polarization for specific conditions and applications.

Polarized Sunglasses

Polarized sunglasses are an example of a practical application of polarization in daily life. These sunglasses use a special polarizing film to block horizontally polarized light, which is the typical orientation of light reflected from flat surfaces such as water or roads. By blocking this reflected light, polarized sunglasses reduce glare and improve visibility, making them particularly useful for activities such as driving and water sports.

Types of Polarized Antennas

Linear Polarization – Horizontal, Vertical, and Slant

Linear polarization is the simplest form of antenna polarization, involving the electric field (E-field) oscillating in a single plane. There are three common types of linear polarization:

  • Horizontal polarization: In this type, the E-field vector is parallel to the Earth’s surface. Horizontal polarization is often used in radio and television broadcasting.
  • Vertical polarization: Here, the E-field vector is perpendicular to the Earth’s surface. Common applications include mobile communication networks and radio frequency identification (RFID) systems.
  • Slant polarization: The E-field vector is inclined at a certain angle to the Earth’s surface. This is useful when the polarization of one or both antennas changes during use, or when the polarization of both antennas is unknown.

Circular Polarization – Right and Left Hand

Circular polarization (CP) is more complex than linear polarization. In this mode, the E-field vector rotates as the signal propagates. There are two types of Circular polarization:

  • Right-hand circular polarization (RHCP): The E-field vector rotates clockwise from the viewpoint of the source to the observer.
  • Left-hand circular polarization (LHCP): The E-field vector rotates counterclockwise from the viewpoint of the source to the observer.

Circular polarization is used in various applications, including satellite communication, radio astronomy, and radar systems.

Elliptical Polarization – Parameterization

Elliptical polarization is a combination of linear and circular polarization and is characterized by an E-field vector that traces an ellipse as the signal propagates. In this mode, the major axis of the ellipse can be aligned at any angle with respect to the Earth’s surface.

The parameterization of elliptical polarization involves the following parameters:

  1. Orientation angle: The angle between the major axis of the ellipse and the reference direction, usually the horizontal plane.
  2. Ellipticity angle: Defined as the angle between the major and minor axes of the ellipse.
  3. Rotation rate: The rate at which the E-field vector rotates around the ellipse.

Elliptical polarization is found in antennas used for satellite communication, radar systems, and certain wireless communication systems.

Operating Principles

Transmitter and Receiver Orientation

The fundamental aspect of polarized antennas is their orientation during transmission and reception of radio waves. In radio engineering, an antenna serves as the interface between propagating radio waves and electric currents in metal conductors. As radio waves travel through space, their electric field vectors exhibit specific orientations, which determine the polarization of the antennas.

Linearly polarized antennas radiate waves in which the electric field vector maintains its parallelism to a line in space. When installing polarized antennas, it’s crucial to match the transmitter and receiver antennas’ polarizations to maintain the polarization consistency for optimum signal transmission and reception.

Polarization Mismatch Loss

Polarization mismatch loss occurs when the polarization of the transmitting antenna doesn’t align with the receiving antenna’s polarization. This can lead to signal degradation or even cause complete loss of communication. In order to minimize polarization mismatch loss, it is essential to properly orient both the transmitter and receiver antennas, ensuring that their polarizations are aligned.

In some cases, circularly polarized antennas are used as they provide better performance in environments with multipath propagation. Circularly polarized antennas can receive signals from multiple paths, with polarization states that might be misaligned but still maintain a more consistent signal strength. This reduces the negative impact of polarization mismatch loss, especially in densely-built areas or where obstructions are present.

In conclusion, understanding the operating principles of polarized antennas, such as the transmitter and receiver orientation and polarization mismatch loss, is essential for optimizing radio communication systems and minimizing signal degradation. Proper antenna installation and alignment play a significant role in maintaining reliable and efficient communication links.

Applications of Polarized Antennas

Polarized antennas play a crucial role in various fields, including telecommunications, wireless communication, and radio astronomy. This section will discuss each of these applications and explain the significance of antenna polarization in each domain.


In telecommunications, polarized antennas are used to transmit and receive signals efficiently while minimizing interference. By matching the polarization between the transmitting and receiving antennas, signal strength and reliability can be maximized. This is particularly important in scenarios where there are multiple sources of electromagnetic signals in the same frequency range, such as densely populated urban areas or crowded wireless networks.

For example, cellular networks employ linearly polarized antennas to maintain efficient communication with mobile devices. The electric field vector in these antennas traces a line as time progresses, which helps in minimizing signal loss.

Wireless Communication

Polarized antennas play an essential role in wireless communication systems, including Wi-Fi networks, Bluetooth-enabled devices, and satellite communication systems. Circularly polarized antennas are often used in these applications, as they provide better overall signal reception and coverage across a range of polarization states.

The use of circularly polarized antennas can also enhance signal quality and reduce interference caused by multipath propagation. In satellite communications, circular polarization ensures the transmitted signal remains consistent regardless of the orientation of the receiving antenna, which may vary due to satellite movement or changes in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Radio Astronomy

In radio astronomy, polarized antennas are employed to study celestial objects and phenomena that emit radio waves. These antennas are used to detect and analyze linearly or circularly polarized signals from distant galaxies, quasars, and other astronomical sources.

By observing the polarization properties of these radio signals, astronomers can gain valuable insights into the physical properties and processes occurring within these celestial objects. Additionally, the ability to distinguish between different types of polarization helps astronomers filter out interfering signals from Earth-based sources or other celestial bodies.

In summary, polarized antennas play a significant role in various applications, such as telecommunications, wireless communication, and radio astronomy. Their ability to transmit and receive signals efficiently while minimizing interference enables these technologies to maintain robust and reliable communication channels.

Factors Affecting Polarized Antennas Performance

Antenna Design and Structure

The performance of polarized antennas primarily depends on their design and structure. On one hand, the physical shape and arrangement of antenna elements significantly influence the polarization of transmitted and received signals. For instance, horizontally polarized antennas are known to have lower signal loss when mounted near a ceiling, while vertically polarized antennas perform better when mounted near a side wall.

Omni-directional antennas, on the other hand, exhibit different polarization and performance characteristics compared to linear or directional antennas. The radiation pattern and orientation of these antennas play a crucial role in determining their polarization behavior, making it essential for engineers to carefully choose an appropriate antenna design according to the specific application.

Environmental Factors

Apart from design and structure, environmental factors also affect the performance of polarized antennas. Factors such as reflection, refraction, and scattering of radio waves, caused by interaction with buildings or natural obstacles, can lead to decreased signal strength and potential polarization mismatch between the transmitting and receiving antennas.

Furthermore, in the case of high-frequency (HF) band communication, horizontal polarized antennas have been found to receive lower levels of noise compared to their vertically polarized counterparts. This information implies that polarization performance in real-world environments is significantly influenced by the surrounding landscape, infrastructure, and potential sources of interference.

In conclusion, both antenna design and environmental factors play a crucial role in determining the performance of polarized antennas. By considering these factors and understanding their impact on signal propagation, it’s possible to optimize antenna polarization and communication performance for various applications.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Pros of Polarized Antennas

Polarized antennas come in two main types: linear and circular. Both types offer unique advantages to accommodate specific use cases or requirements in wireless communication systems.

Linear polarization is often used in scenarios where the cost of the antenna system is a concern, as it typically results in a lower-cost solution. This type of polarization is also known to provide better cross-polarization isolation and can offer a longer read range for RFID reader systems compared to circular polarization.

Circular polarization, on the other hand, excels in maintaining communication links when line-of-sight paths are obstructed by light obstructions such as foliage or small buildings. Circularly polarized antennas are designed to minimize signal degradation caused by environmental factors and are often utilized in satellite, GPS, and communication applications where consistent signal quality is critical.

Cons of Polarized Antennas

Despite the benefits offered by polarized antennas, they also come with some disadvantages that need to be considered depending on the application.

For linear polarization, one significant drawback is the requirement for polarization adjustment. If the transmitting and receiving antennas have misaligned polarization planes, signal strength and quality may be significantly degraded. This can be a limiting factor in certain environments or scenarios where rapid antenna movement is expected.

Circularly polarized antennas, while beneficial for maintaining communication links in obstructed line-of-sight situations, can be more complex and expensive to design and manufacture compared to linearly polarized antennas. Moreover, circular polarization may not be suitable for all types of communication systems, and feasibility must be evaluated based on the specific system’s requirements and constraints.

In conclusion, when selecting a polarized antenna, understanding the advantages and disadvantages of linear and circular polarization is crucial for optimal performance and cost-effectiveness in a given wireless communication system. Each type offers distinct benefits, but also has its limitations, making it essential to consider the specific requirements and constraints of the application before making a final decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages and disadvantages of vertical and horizontal polarization?

In the context of antennas, polarization refers to the orientation of the electric field in a transmitted signal. Vertical polarization oscillates up and down in a vertical plane, while horizontal polarization moves sideways in a horizontal plane. The advantages of vertical polarization include less interference from ground reflections and improved performance in urban environments. Meanwhile, horizontal polarization can reduce noise from man-made sources and provide a stronger signal across long distances. However, it is more susceptible to ground reflections and pick up more natural noise.

How does polarization affect antenna reception?

Polarization plays a significant role in antenna reception, as it dictates the ability of antennas to transmit and receive signals efficiently. Mismatched polarization between transmitting and receiving antennas can result in reduced signal strength, decreased coverage, and increased interference. To minimize signal loss, it’s essential to align the polarization of both antennas.

What is the role of polarization loss factor in communication?

Polarization loss factor (PLF) quantifies the loss of signal power due to mismatched polarization between the transmitting and receiving antennas. A higher PLF indicates a higher level of polarization mismatch, resulting in lower signal strength and reduced communication quality. Antenna engineers account for PLF to improve communication system performance and reduce signal loss.

How do you design a circular polarization antenna?

Designing a circular polarization antenna requires careful consideration of the radiating elements and their configurations, which determine the polarization of the emitted signal. Typically, a circularly polarized antenna consists of two orthogonal linearly polarized elements with a 90-degree phase difference. Some common circular polarization antenna designs include crossed dipoles, helical antennas, and microstrip patch antennas.

How does a dipole antenna’s polarization relate to its performance?

A dipole antenna’s polarization significantly impacts its performance, as it determines the signal’s efficiency and susceptibility to interference. When a dipole antenna is aligned to the same polarization as the transmitter, it ensures maximum signal strength and minimal loss. A dipole antenna’s performance also depends on its height above the ground, as different heights affect the polarization tilt, which can result in variations in the received signal power.

Can you calculate the polarization loss between different types of antennas?

Yes, you can calculate the polarization loss between different types of antennas through the polarization loss factor (PLF). By determining the PLF, you can understand the effect of polarization mismatch on signal strength and adjust antenna configurations accordingly to minimize the communication loss.

What is the polarization of a dipole antenna?

A dipole antenna typically exhibits linear polarization, with the electric field’s orientation being perpendicular to the antenna’s axis. The polarization of a dipole antenna is either vertical or horizontal, depending on the orientation of the antenna in space. For instance, if the dipole antenna is vertically oriented, it exhibits vertical polarization, and if it’s horizontally mounted, it exhibits horizontal polarization.

Leave a Comment