How does Simulation Help with Antenna Design?

Antenna design is selecting the right antenna to meet specifications such as bandwidth, polarization and directivity. Antenna simulation helps finding optimal antenna designs and reveals installed performance and interference in real-world environments.

What are Antennas?

Antennas form the basis of all connected devices and wireless systems. Smartphones, computers, electronic implants, industrial machinery, vehicles, trains, aircraft, spacecraft – almost any modern equipment includes antennas for communication protocols including wifi, Bluetooth and 5G. Coming trends, such as 6G and satellite internet megaconstellations, require new antenna designs and installations.

Antennas have many applications outside communication as well. Radar systems use antennas to transmit and receive radio waves, and many other sensors use antennas to gather data about the environment. Many medical devices use antennas for communication (for example wearable monitors), imaging (for example microwave imaging), treatment (for example radio frequency (RF) hyperthermia) and charging (for example implants). Wireless energy transfer and energy harvesting use antennas as part of the rectenna system that converts radio frequency into electric current – these systems form the basis of radio frequency identification (RFID) and near-field communication (NFC).

Antenna Design

The design of an antenna is crucial to ensure that it meets specifications such as center frequency, bandwidth, efficiency and directivity/gain. Equally important however, is its placement – the platform that it is placed on can significantly impact its installed performance. Propagation in complex real-world environments can cause coverage issues or to co-site interference between radio systems.

Antenna Simulation

Simulation can be used at all stages of antenna development and integration to produce viable antenna designs, optimize them to meet specifications, and analyze their installed performance and RF exposure. SIMULIA antenna synthesis and electromagnetic simulation tools give antenna engineers the tools that they need for any application.

Antenna Systems

Alongside the antennas themselves, SIMULIA electromagnetic simulation tools can also be used to design feeds and other components, such as tuning circuits, filters, multiplexers and waveguides. For more information, see Microwave & RF simulation.

Antenna Design and Simulation Workflow

Antenna Selection

The success of any wireless system begins with selecting the right antenna for the application. With so many different antenna types, and new designs appearing in literature all the time, it can be difficult to find the most suitable antenna for the job. SIMULIA Antenna Magus is a tool that allows users to search and explore a database of antennas.

Antenna Selection > Dassault Systèmes

Antenna Design Wizards

SIMULIA Antenna Magus design wizard can automatically suggest antenna types that fit the specifications and dimensions needed, and builds simulation-ready models tuned to the specified frequencies. Other SIMULIA synthesis tools including CST Studio Suite, WASP-NET, and Fest3D offer powerful design automation tools for specialist antenna and feed applications.

Antenna Design Wizard -> Dassault Systèmes

3D Antenna Simulation

The antenna design can be modified and analyzed in 3D in CST Studio Suite. Other elements such as feeds can be added and materials modified. Optimization can fine-tune the antenna performance, taking coupling and parasitic effects into account. Users can calculate standard antenna KPIs such as the far-field radiation pattern, directivity, gain and S-parameters, as well as specially defined KPIs for applications such as 5G. Near-fields can also be calculated and exported as sources for antenna placement simulation.

CST Studio Suite Simulation of a Mobilephone Farfield > Dassault Systèmes

Antenna Array Simulation

Antenna arrays can be built up using the CST Studio Suite Array Wizard. Every stage of design, from the individual element, to optimization as an infinite array, to the final finite 3D array simulation, can be combined into an integrated workflow to help users quickly build an array model. Even extremely large arrays can be simulated rapidly with high performance.

Electric Field of an Antenna Array > Dassault Systèmes

Antenna impedance matching

An antenna is usually part of a larger module, and proximity effects from feeds, radomes, ground planes and other elements impact performance. A matching circuit can correct for the impedance mismatch caused by installing an antenna on a module – simulation can find the tuning circuit values that achieve the best performance.

Smith Chart > Dassault Systèmes

High-Power Feed Components

For high-power vacuum applications, particularly in space, multipactor and corona effects can damage the feed. Simulation reveals potential failure modes, including thermal effects, to ensure the antenna operates safely after launch.

High Power Feed Components > Dassault Systèmes

Installed Antenna Performance Analysis

Platform effects are also important. The platform an antenna is installed on can reflect, diffract or absorb radio waves and affect the antenna performance, while coupling between the antenna and the metal body of the platform can detune it. Whether the platform is a small and complex like a laptop or smartphone, or electrically very large such as a car, aircraft or cell tower, simulation can calculate installed performance and help find the ideal antenna placement.

Installed Antenna Performance > Dassault Systèmes

Co-Site Interference Analysis

Complex environments such as streets, offices and factories can be simulated to calculate multipath propagation and expected coverage in realistic scenarios. Co-site interference and antenna desense can also be analyzed and mitigated with simulation. Interference between antenna systems can be analyzed with the CST Studio Suite Interference Task, which highlights potential EMI risks and helps engineers quickly mitigate them.

Co-site Interference Analysis > Dassault Systèmes

Certification via Simulation

Any device with transmit functionality must be certified for numerous safety regulations covering topics such as electromagnetic interference (EMI) and human RF exposure. Simulation reveals field patterns inside realistic human body models, calculating specific absorption rate (SAR) and other RF exposure KPIs more efficiently than measurement can.

Bodies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) accept simulation data as an alternative to measurements for many certification purposes. Building and testing a virtual antenna prototype using simulation saves time and cost compared to traditional physical prototypes. Results can be obtained within hours or days instead of weeks or months. If a problem is identified, it can be quickly resolved and resimulated, reducing the risk of expensive late-stage test failure.

Antenna Certification > Dassault Systèmes

Start Your Journey

Explore the technological advancements, innovative methodologies, and evolving industry demands that are reshaping the world of Antenna Design and Simulation. Stay a step ahead with SIMULIA. Discover now.

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