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How to choose PCB antenna in wireless design

Release date:2021-12-28Author source:KinghelmViews:738

The demand for PCB antennas in communication products is also growing.

Antennas are key components in many wireless systems, and printed circuit board (PCB) antennas are widely used in the industry due to their small size and ease of integration with other high-frequency circuits.

The performance and consistency of a PCB antenna is largely determined by the quality of its underlying circuit laminate, and its size is highly dependent on the target frequency and wavelength of the antenna.

Whether it is from personal communication systems (PCS), Internet of Things (IoT) applications, to automotive electronic control and safety systems, there is no doubt that the demand for wireless applications in these systems is very strong.

With higher operating frequencies, from the 2.4GHz band for PCS applications to the millimeter wave (mmWave) frequencies for automotive advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), antennas are needed everywhere.

This is where PCB antennas come into play - designers often turn to them as a practical solution to the growing number of wireless applications.

A high frequency PCB antenna can be as simple as a microstrip patch fabricated on one side of a circuit laminate, with the addition of a slightly larger ground plane on the other side of the dielectric layer below it.

This low profile antenna is ideal for installation in systems with any available flat surface.

Of course, the antenna radiation pattern of such a simple microstrip patch will be limited.

PCB antennas using microstrip patches typically combine multiple patches on one PCB to achieve higher gain at a given operating frequency.

The size of the patch depends on the wavelength of the target operating frequency, usually half the wavelength, to achieve the best resonant antenna characteristics at the target frequency.

Of course, RF/microwave PCB antennas can be composed of many different transmission lines, such as stripline and coplanar waveguide transmission lines. They can even combine multiple different transmission lines in the same PCB antenna design.

Many suppliers offer PCB antennas as manufactured components that can be added to system designs;

Some manufacturers also offer services to build PCB antennas based on computer-aided engineering (CAE) design files or custom mechanical requirements.

For example, Advanced Circuitry International (ACI) can manufacture large antennas (for lower frequencies) or large small antennas on large circuit boards, such as 12× 18 inches and 18× 24 inches, using single-sided, double-sided and multi-layer PCBs Antenna configuration (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Some manufacturers offer extended capabilities to fabricate PCB antennas on a variety of circuit materials according to the precise requirements of the customer. (Courtesy of Advanced Circuitry International)

ACI manufactures antennas on a variety of different substrate materials, including DuPont's high-performance flexible circuit materials and RF/microwave circuit laminates from leading circuit material suppliers such as Arron, Isola, Rogers and Taconics.

PCB antennas are often supplied with adhesive to simplify installation in the intended application.

The selection of such circuit materials as the basis for a PCB antenna is critical to its performance, especially when the PCB antenna is used for higher mmWave frequencies and harsher operating environments (e.g., ADAS applications).

In some cases, PCB antennas are provided as "components" with attached coaxial cables and connectors for quick and easy interconnection to internal circuit boards.

One of the PCB antenna suppliers, TE ConnecTIvity, has developed a wide range of PCB antennas with cables and connectors suitable for various frequency bands for personal communication system applications.

Specifically, TE ConnecTIvity's Model 2118060-1 PCB Antenna Assembly (Figure 2).

It can provide an operating frequency of approximately 2.4 to 2.5 GHz for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN).

Cable length is 13.78 inches (350 mm), with a choice of different types of connectors such as MCIS and MHF connectors; PCB antenna includes adhesive for mounting on flat surfaces.

Figure 2. This PCB antenna is considered a component with interconnecting cables and connectors and adhesive for ease of integration and installation in different applications. The antenna assembly (model 2118060-1) is designed for 2.4 to 2.5 GHz. (Courtesy of TE ConnecTIvity)

Likewise, Taoglas Antenna Solutions' FXP07.07.0100A is a low-profile flexible PCB antenna with short cable lengths and IPEX connectors and tape for easy stick-on installation on flat surfaces (Figure 3).

Compliant with RoHS compliant antenna designs for "five-band" frequency bands including AMPS from 824 to 896 MHz, GSM from 880 to 960 MHz, DCS from 1710 to 1880 MHz, PCS from 1850 to 1990 MHz, and UMTS from 1710 to 2170 MHz.

The compact 50Ω antenna measures 41×24 mm with linear polarization and an omnidirectional radiation pattern.

Figure 3. This low profile PCB antenna assembly supports multiple frequencies, covering a range of 824 to 2170 MHz. (Courtesy of Taoglas Antenna Solutions)

A growing trend in PCB antenna design is multi-band coverage to accommodate systems with broadband frequency ranges or multiple applications.

For example, Pulse Electronics' CW3315B0100 series of flexible PCB antennas are dual-band Wi-Fi antennas designed to cover the 2.4 to 2.5 GHz and 4.90 to 5.85 GHz WLAN frequency bands (Figure 4).

Figure 4. This tiny flexible PCB antenna assembly is designed to cover the 2.4 to 2.5 GHz and 4.90 to 5.85 GHz WLAN frequency bands. (Courtesy of Pulse Electronics)

This is also a PCB antenna assembly with a 100mm cable and standard IPEX connector for easy connection to the application.

The miniature antenna assembly provides greater than 50% antenna efficiency and is designed for internal installation in Wi-Fi products.

The dual-band/broadband coverage of the CW3315B0100 is a representative example of industrial applications and practical applications of IoT devices and public safety equipment.

While it is very easy to mount such a tiny PCB antenna with adhesive, it can sometimes result in the absence of any type of ground plane, which reduces antenna efficiency.

While the underside of a PCB antenna laminate is usually the ground plane, the larger ground plane required for higher efficiency may increase the physical size of the PCB antenna, which must be considered when the antenna is mounted in the application.

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