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Published in IET Microwaves, Antennas & Propagation Received on 19th July 2012 Revised on 13th October 2012 doi: 10.1049/iet-map.2012.0395

ISSN 1751-8725

Experimental investigation of a circularly polarised exible polymer/composite microstrip antenna for wearable applications
N. Ehteshami1 V. Sathi2 M. Ehteshami3
1 2

Department of Electrical Engineering, Islamic Azad University, Tabriz Branch, Tabriz, Iran Azarbaijan Regional Electricity Company (AREC), Khagani St., Tabriz, Iran 3 Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Razi University, Kermanshah, Iran E-mail:

Abstract: A novel highly exible, lightweight square ring circularly polarised microstrip antenna composed of SrTiO3/polyolen elastomer (POE) composite as substrate material and polypyrrole conductive polymer as radiating patch and ground plane is proposed, designed and fabricated for the rst time. Circular polarisation is achieved by truncating the corners of square ring patch. The effect of composite substrate thickness is experimentally studied and antenna parameters are compared with a reference copper antenna. The antenna performance is experimentally studied when it is exed under different curvature radii. Also its actual performance is investigated when mounted on human body. High frequency structure simulator (HFSS) simulation and measurement results show good performance of the proposed antennas. The polymer/composite antenna is very exible and lightweight and can be used for exible/wearable antenna applications.


The increasing world-wide activity in body area networks, wireless personal area networks and medical sensor networks has given rise to renewed interest in wearable antennas that are designed for operation on the human body or the bodies of animals. The military have used portable radio equipment, incorporating antennas close to the body, for many decades, and the development of the pager and mobile phone have meant that many studies of the interaction of antennas with the body have been undertaken. However, the introduction of many types of small body worn medical sensors has enhanced the potential of wireless medical sensor networks in connecting these sensors to specialists, and increased the ability of doctors to monitor their patients at a distance, thus enabling resource saving through early patient release from hospitals. The wider applications of wearable antennas have been well described in [1 6]. Flexible dielectric substrates and exible conducting lms can open new horizons to a number of exciting applications in the eld of exible/wearable electronics and communications. The application of polymer and organic conductors and semiconductors and composite dielectric materials in microwave and millimetre wave devices has gained increasing attention [7 11]. Conducting polymers have been introduced as alternatives to copper (Cu) antennas. This is particularly in applications where lightweight, and wearable/conformable antennas are under consideration. In this study, we have used both conducting polymer thin lm
IET Microw. Antennas Propag., 2012, Vol. 6, Iss. 15, pp. 1681 1686 doi: 10.1049/iet-map.2012.0395

and exible dielectric composite SrTiO3/POE (ST/POE) to implement a highly exible microstrip antenna. There have been efforts in the past towards using conducting polymers as materials in antenna design [12 16]. Most of the reported works in this area have proposed some simple antenna structures to resonate at a desirable resonance frequency. Here, besides exploiting ST/POE composite as a exible substrate material for the rst time, we have tried to implement a more sophisticated prototype which can produce circular polarisation. Owing to its lightweight and exibility, such an antenna is a potential candidate in personal global positioning system (GPS) application. Conductive polymers are emerging as one of the most important materials of our time. They have moved from purely passive materials such as coatings to active materials, with very interesting electrical, mechanical and optical [17] properties. The conductivity of conductive polymers can be in the range of 10210 107 S/m, which places it between the conductivity of classic insulators such as glass, and that of metallic conductors such as copper. Unlike metals, a polymer does not posses free electrons that can move through the polymer lattice when subjected to electrical eld. In conductive polymers, electrical conduction takes place through overlapping p-molecular orbits, when one or more p-electrons are removed from the polymer chain. Trends in the available literature on conductive polymers indicate that bulk conductivity of conductive polymers may become equal to that of copper, if not better, in the future. In this paper, we explore the possibilities of using polypyrrole (PPy) and ST/POE

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composite on a single compact platform as a exible and circularly polarised microstrip antenna. Dielectric properties of ST/POE at microwave frequencies are studied at [18]. ST/POE has excellent dielectric properties, good exibility and good frequency stability within a wide range. Composite used in our experiments contain 40 vol.% SrTiO3 , the dielectric constant and loss tangent are 11.0 and 0.01 at 1 GHz, respectively. The paper is organised as follows. In Section 2, design and fabrication procedure of square ring reference copper microstrip antenna is described and measurement results are presented. In Section 3, two polymer/composite antennas are designed and fabricated. Simulation and experimental results are discussed and antenna performance is studied when it is exed. Effect of human body proximity on the performance of the antenna is studied in Section 4 and experimental results are presented and discussed. The effect of improved ground plane is examined in this section. Finally, conclusions are made in Section 5.
Table 1
Parameter Parameters of the three fabricated antennas Antenna type Reference copper 0.75 2.52 43 43 36 28 15 3 1.6 5



substrate-thickness, mm 1r ground plane size, mmmm a, mm b, mm l, mm w, mm d, mm Dl, mm

0.75 11 36 36 29 20 12 1.52 1.2 3.45

1.3 11 30 30 25 18 10.5 1.22 1.11 3.10

Reference copper antenna

In this section, we design and fabricate a reference square ring copper microstrip antenna with circular polarisation. This antenna will be used for validation of the experiments and comparison with polymer/composite antenna (which will be called POLYCOM antenna), which will be designed later. Generally, a metallic square ring microstrip antenna has smaller size compared with its metallic square or circular counterpart, for a given frequency. The small size is an important requirement for portable communication equipment such as GPS receivers. To design a single-feed square ring microstrip antenna with circular polarisation, the required two orthogonal modes with equal amplitudes and 908 phase difference can be excited by truncating patch corners. A 50 V input impedance can be easily found in the ring strip if the square ring antenna has a wider ring strip. For narrower ring stripes the edge impedance is large and varies slowly across the strip width. Here, we solve the edge impedance problem by placing a coupling strip in the ring. This method is suitable for microstrip antennas with thin substrates. Fig. 1 shows the conguration of the designed copper microstrip antenna. The antenna was rst simulated using nite element method (FEM)-based

Fig. 2 Measured and simulated return loss for the reference copper antenna

Fig. 1 Conguration of the proposed antennas

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software, HFSS by ANSOFT. Fine tuning then performed during the fabrication process. The optimised dimensions of the reference copper square ring microstrip antenna are listed in Table 1. The substrate of the copper antenna is Ultralam 3003 (thickness 0.75 mm and permittivity 1r 2.52). Resonance frequency of the copper antenna was measured as 2.27 GHz. Fig. 2 shows the simulated and measured return loss for this reference copper antenna. Fig. 3 depicts the measured axial ratio and antenna gain at different frequencies. As seen in Fig. 2, there is good agreement between simulation and experiment in terms of resonance frequency. The quality and pureness of the materials are other important factors. Fabrication errors should also be taken into account. In the next section, we will design and construct two POLYCOM microstrip antennas and compare them with the reference copper antenna. In our experiments, to measure the axial ratio of the antennas, we use the test antenna as the source and a halfwave dipole as the receiving antenna. Then, we rotate the half-wave dipole and record the received power as a function of the angle. For gain measurements, we use a pyramidal horn antenna (20 dB peak gain) as the gain standard antenna. Then we measure the peak gain using the well-known Friis transmission equation and the gain standard antenna. Our return loss measurements were done with the aid of Agilent 6052 network analyser in the frequency range from 300 kHz to 4 GHz.
IET Microw. Antennas Propag., 2012, Vol. 6, Iss. 15, pp. 16811686 doi: 10.1049/iet-map.2012.0395

Fig. 3 Measured axial ratio and gain of the reference copper antenna

Fig. 5 Measured and simulated return loss of the POLYCOM1 antenna

3 POLYCOM antenna design and experiments

The selection of polymer/composite combination for the proposed antennas was on the premise that a successful antenna design on polymer/composite could lead to the development of some interesting conformal and planar future designs including highly exible very thin microstrip antennas. In this section, two POLYCOM antennas with different substrate thicknesses will be designed and fabricated. Both of these antennas are composed of PPy conducting polymer as radiating patch and ground plane, and ST/POE as substrate material. PPy lms used in our experiments were prepared in accordance with the procedure indicated in [19]. DC conductivity of the sample lms used in our antennas was measured to be 2000 S/m. To have a reasonable comparison, POLYCOM antennas must be as similar as possible to the reference copper antenna (in terms of physical conguration). Thickness of PPy lm used as radiating element is chosen 90 mm. The effect of patch thickness for less conductive materials (such as PPy) is a vital factor in polymer antennas. Antenna designers usually consider a couple of skin depths as essential for the patch antenna. The skin depth for the patch antennas at 2 GHz is 250 mm for PPy. It is evident that the thickness of PPy patch is far less than one skin depth. Substrate thicknesses of the two POLYCOM antennas are 0.75 and 1.3 mm, respectively. Optimised physical dimensions of these two POLYCOM antennas

Fig. 6 Measured and simulated return loss of the POLYCOM2 antenna

(POLYCOM1 and POLYCOM2) and reference copper antenna are listed in Table 1. Fig. 4 is the photograph of the POLYCOM2. Figs. 5 and 6 show simulated and measured return loss for POLYCOM1 and POLYCOM2, respectively. Measured resonance frequency for POLYCOM1 and POLYCOM2 are 2.17 and 2.19 GHz, respectively. As seen from Figs. 5 and 6, there is good agreement between HFSS simulation and measurement results, in terms of resonance frequency. Figs. 7 and 8 show the axial

Fig. 4 Photograph of the fabricated exible POLYCOM2 antenna

IET Microw. Antennas Propag., 2012, Vol. 6, Iss. 15, pp. 1681 1686 doi: 10.1049/iet-map.2012.0395

Fig. 7 Measured axial ratio and gain of the POLYCOM1 antenna


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Fig. 8 Measured axial ratio and gain of the POLYCOM2 antenna Table 2 Measured gain, radiation efciency, 3 dB axial ratio and resonance frequency of the three designed antennas
Experimental results Reference copper gain, dBi radiation efciency, % 3 dB axial ratio bandwidth, MHz resonance frequency, GHz 3.2 95.2 130 2.27 Antenna type POLYCOM1 POLYCOM2

Fig. 10 Measured return loss of POLYCOM2 for under different curvature radii

2.1 62 150 2.17

3.3 65 239 2.19

ratio and gain plot for POLYCOM1 and POLYCOM2 antennas, respectively. Table 2 summarises experimental results for gain, radiation efciency, 3 dB axial ratio, and resonance frequency of the three fabricated antennas (copper, POLYCOM1, POLYCOM2). From Table 2, resonance frequencies of the three antennas are very close to each other, whereas the

Fig. 11 Measured axial ratio of POLYCOM2 under different curvatures

Fig. 9 Measured impedance loci of POLYCOM1 and POLYCOM2

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dimensions are different. This is because of the loading effect of the high permittivity substrate (ST/POE). Fig. 9 shows measured values of input impedance for POLYCOM1 and POLYCOM2 between 2000 2250 MHz. According to Fig. 9, results show satisfactory agreement for the present circular polarisation design of POLYCOM1 and POLYCOM2. Furthermore, it can be seen that very small loops in the measured impedance locus near 2180 MHz was obtained, which indicate that two resonance modes were excited at very similar frequencies. Too many parameters incorporate to determine the behaviour of the POLYCOM antennas (i.e. patch thickness, exact value of permittivity of the composite and conductivity of the polymer, pureness of the composite and polymer and fabrication errors), so it is difcult to integrate all of these parameters in a single mathematical formula. A exible/wearable antenna should maintain its performance under different radii of curvatures. Fig. 10 shows measured antenna return loss under different radius of curvatures for POLYCOM2. Fig. 11 shows the plot of axial ratio for different curvatures for POLYCOM2. As can be seen, the antenna demonstrates reasonable resonance characteristics as it is exed through various radii, albeit with deterioration in its circular polarisation performance (for radius of curvature , 10 mm).
IET Microw. Antennas Propag., 2012, Vol. 6, Iss. 15, pp. 16811686 doi: 10.1049/iet-map.2012.0395
mounted on human body, with original ground plane (dashed line) and with improved ground plane (solid line). The improved ground plane size is 36 mm 36 mm. Body proximity has a detrimental effect on circular polarisation performance of the antenna, too. As seen in Fig. 13, this can be overcome by increasing the ground plane size. The experiments were repeated by different ground plane sizes for POLYCOM1 and POLYCOM2. The results showed that, the size of the original ground plane must increase at least 20% in each dimension (which gives 44% increase in the area) to effectively reduce the proximity effect and eliminate the detuning in antenna operation.

Fig. 12 Measured return loss of POLYCOM2 when mounted on human body with original and improved ground planes


Effect of human body proximity

The human body is composed of a large variety of tissue types, each having different dielectric properties, and these data are important for the design of wearable antennas. There have been a number of studies of the dielectric properties of body tissues at radio frequencies and microwaves [2024]. The changes in the performance of a typical wearable antenna because of the proximity of the body have been examined in [25]. For example, in some printed dipole- and monopoletype antennas, printed conformally on a substrate, detuning as the antenna is brought into contact with the body is of the order of 100 MHz (this value can be different depending on the antenna design and proximity conditions) at 2.45 GHz. For some reported antennas mounted above a metal ground plane, the detuning is less than this, and of course depends on the ground plane size. The position on the body is also a factor, with detuning being different on the limbs than on the trunk. The efciency of the antenna is also changed when brought into proximity to the body. One way to counter the detuning effect of human body proximity is using bigger ground plane. In this section, rst we evaluate the performance of POLYCOM2 when mounted on human body. Then we increase the size of the ground plane (which is a super-thin PPy lm) and investigate the antenna performance again. When the antenna in mounted on human body, a 55 MHz shift in resonance frequency is observed. Fig. 12 shows measured return loss of POLYCOM2 when

In this paper, we proposed a circularly polarised exible microstrip antenna, which is composed of a novel material combination (POLYCOM). To our knowledge, this is the rst application of ST/POE exible composite in microstrip antenna fabrication. The aim of this research mainly involved exploring new material combinations, to develop exible/wearable antennas. The proposed antennas have a very good performance, and there is good agreement in resonance frequency, but with signicant differences in bandwidth and curve shape, between HFSS simulation and experiments. The POLYCOM2 antenna showed reasonable performance when it was exed under different curvature radii. There was detuning in antenna resonance frequency and deterioration in axial ratio, when operating near human tissue. The impact of human body proximity was effectively reduced via increasing the size of the ground plane by at least 20% in each dimension.


Fig. 13 Measured axial ratio of POLYCOM2 when mounted on human body, with original and improved ground planes
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IET Microw. Antennas Propag., 2012, Vol. 6, Iss. 15, pp. 16811686 doi: 10.1049/iet-map.2012.0395