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Antenna (electronics)

An antenna in electronics (aerial in British English) is an arrangement of conductors designed to radiate an electromagnetic field in response to an applied alternating electromotive force (EMF) and the associated alternating electric current.

Alternatively, if an antenna is placed into an electromagnetic field, it will produce an alternating voltage in response to the field: see radio frequency induction.

There are two basically different types of antenna. One type couples to the electric field of an electromagnetic wave. It's usually a length of wire in which an electric charge moves back and forth. The other type couples to the magnetic field of an electromagnetic wave. It is usually a coil or loop of wire forming an electromagnet.

By adding additional conducting rods or coils, called "elements", and varying their length, spacing and layout, one can make an antenna with different properties as required. Typically, antennae are designed to operate at a specific frequency and to either radiate or receive.

The vast majority of antennae are simple vertical rods, which are inexpensive, and both radiate and receive from all points of the compass with equal efficiency. One crucial limitation of this type is that it does not radiate or receive very well in the direction in which the wire points. This is called the antenna blind cone.

Antennae have practical use for the transmission and reception of radio signals, which can pass through (nonconducting) walls at the speed of light over great distances.

Theoretically, arrays of microscopic antennae could be designed, capable of converting light, which is of course an electromagnetic wave, and other ambient radio waves, into usable electricity. Where standard photovoltaic cells reach no more than 25% efficiency, this technique could convert virtually all frequencies, including infrared and ultraviolet.

A dielectric resonator is a variation on the conventional antenna in which an insulator with a large dielectric constant is used to modify the electromagnetic field. It is claimed that the dielectric contains the antenna's near field and therefore prevents it from interfering with other nearby antennas or circuits, making it suitable for miniature equipment such as mobile phones. This idea is (in 2003) being developed by the British company Antenova, whose headquarters building is punningly named "Far Field House".

For computers, it's used the de facto standard Mcx cable.

See also: antenna height above average terrain, antenna blind cone, antenna effective area, antenna theory, electromagnetism, WiFi, Satellite television.

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