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PLASMA ANTENNA

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Chapter 1
1. INTRODUCTION

On earth we live upon an island of "ordinary" matter. The different states
of matter generally found on earth are solid, liquid, and gas. Sir William Crookes,
an English physicist identified a fourth state of matter, now called plasma, in
1879. Plasma is by far the most common form of matter. Plasma in the stars and
in the tenuous space between them makes up over 99% of the visible universe
and perhaps most of that which is not visible. Important to ASI's technology,
plasmas are conductive assemblies of charged and neutral particles and fields
that exhibit collective effects. Plasmas carry electrical currents and generate
magnetic fields.
When the Plasma Antenna Research Laboratory at ANU investigated the
feasibility of plasma antennas as low radar cross-section radiating elements,
Redcentre established a network between DSTO ANU researchers, CEA
Technologies, Cantec Australasia and Neolite Neon for further development and
future commercialization of this technology.
The plasma antenna R & D project has proceeded over the last year at the
Australian National University in response to a DSTO (Defence Science and
Technology Organisation) contract to develop a new antenna solution that
minimizes antenna detectability by radar. Since then, an investigation of the
wider technical issues of existing antenna systems has revealed areas where
plasma antennas might be useful. The project attracts the interest of the
industrial groups involved in such diverse areas as fluorescent lighting,
telecommunications and radar. Plasma antennas have a number of potential
advantages for antenna design.
When a plasma element is not energized, it is difficult to detect by radar.
Even when it is energized, it is transparent to the transmissions above the
plasma frequency, which falls in the microwave region.

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Chapter 2
2. PLASMA ANTENNA TECHNOLOGY

Since the discovery of radio frequency ("RF") transmission, antenna
design has been an integral part of virtually every communication and radar
application. Technology has advanced to provide unique antenna designs for
applications ranging from general broadcast of radio frequency signals for public
use to complex weapon systems. In its most common form, an antenna
represents a conducting metal surface that is sized to emit radiation at one or
more selected frequencies. Antennas must be efficient so the maximum amount
of signal strength is expended in the propagated wave and not wasted in antenna
reflection.



Plasma antenna technology employs ionized gas enclosed in a tube (or
other enclosure) as the conducting element of an antenna. This is a fundamental
change from traditional antenna design that generally employs solid metal wires
as the conducting element. Ionized gas is an efficient conducting element with a
number of important advantages. Since the gas is ionized only for the time of
transmission or reception, "ringing" and associated effects of solid wire antenna
design are eliminated. The design allows for extremely short pulses, important to
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many forms of digital communication and radars. The design further provides the
opportunity to construct an antenna that can be compact and dynamically
reconfigured for frequency, direction, bandwidth, gain and beam width. Plasma
antenna technology will enable antennas to be designed that are efficient, low in
weight and smaller in size than traditional solid wire antennas.
When gas is electrically charged, or ionized to a plasma state it becomes
conductive, allowing radio frequency (RF) signals to be transmitted or received.
We employ ionized gas enclosed in a tube as the conducting element of an
antenna. When the gas is not ionized, the antenna element ceases to exist. This
is a fundamental change from traditional antenna design that generally employs
solid metal wires as the conducting element. We believe our plasma antenna
offers numerous advantages including stealth for military applications and higher
digital performance in commercial applications. We also believe our technology
can compete in many metal antenna applications. Our initial efforts have focused
on military markets. General Dynamics' Electric Boat Corporation sponsored over
$160,000 of development in 2000 accounting for substantially all of our revenues.
Initial studies have concluded that a plasma antenna's performance is
equal to a copper wire antenna in every respect. Plasma antennas can be used
for any transmission and/or modulation technique: continuous wave (CW), phase
modulation, impulse, AM, FM, chirp, spread spectrum or other digital techniques.
And the plasma antenna can be used over a large frequency range up to 20GHz
and employ a wide variety of gases (for example neon, argon, helium, krypton,
mercury vapor and zenon). The same is true as to its value as a receive antenna.






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Chapter 3
3. EXPERIMENTAL SETUP

A 100-400 Watt radio frequency source (3.7 MHz to 32 MHz) is used to
form an RF discharge in various gases, in a 35cm long and 3 cm diameter glass
tube. The glass tube is connected to a combined system of rotary and diffusion
pump. The system is evacuated to a base pressure of -5 mbar, then filled
with argon gas to various working pressures. The discharge is initiated by a
single capacitive coupler of length 3.5 cm mounted at one end of the tube. This
capacitive coupler is EM shielded. Plasma column is also formed with different
gases such as air, nitrogen and oxygen. Experiments are performed for different
plasma conditions. Surface wave is driven by 5 MHz-32 MHz frequency and 100-
400 watts input power by RF generator. Hence the column is called the surface
wave driven plasma column is shown in Fig.1.


Fig.1 Surface wave driven plasma column.
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This plasma column acts as antenna due to surface wave induced current.
The experiment is done for showing that plasma column act as antenna, which
can be used for communication. Fig.2 shows the block diagram of
communication system with plasma antenna. In this system plasma antenna is
used for communication. Duplexer is connected 5cm above from the capacitive
coupler because 5cm is the calculated minimum distance where measurements
are not 4 affected by EM radiation by capacitive coupler. Duplexer is the
combination of Rx filter of insertion loss 0.2 dB for 49 MHz and 80 dB isolation for
46 MHz and Tx filter of insertion loss 0.2 dB for 46 MHz and isolation 80 dB for
49 MHz.
The speech or information signal of frequency 300 Hz to 3400 Hz is
generated through MIC. This signal is amplified and filtered by Audio amplifier
and filter. The tone signal of 6 KHz generated through decoders according to
hand shaking signals from singling circuit. The speech signal and handshaking
signal are mixed and fed to varac diode of X-tal oscillator for frequency
modulation. Basic frequency is 49/4 MHz, therefore oscillator frequency 12.25
MHz. This signal is passed in frequency multiplier by 4. Therefore carrier
frequency is 49 MHz is amplified and fed Tx filters of Duplexer. From plasma
antenna, 46 MHz passes through Rx filters of duplexer. This 46 MHz signal send
to Mixer. Mixer is consists of Lower oscillator (LO) which is 10.7 MHz higher than
through Low Noise Amplifier (LNA). Lower oscillator (LO) is 10.7 MHz high than
RF input and mixed. Lower oscillator gives 10.7 MHz to Intermediate frequency
(IF) filter and amplifier at 46 MHz, 10.7 MHz frequency is filtered and amplified
and again it is given to second Mixer to get 455 KHz using Lower oscillator of
(10.7 MHz + 544 KHz = 11.155 MHz) 11.155 MHz and IF of 455 KHz. Now 455
KHz IM carries information which is discriminated to get 6 KHz and 300 to 3400
Hz. Audio filter will block 6 KHz and allow 300 3400 Hz to go to audio amplifier
and amplified signal send to Loudspeaker. Notch filter will block all other
frequencies than 6 KHz to go to tone decoder to give signal for ring or ON/OFF
or Hook status.

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Fig.2 BLOCK DIGRAM OF COMMUNICATION SYSTEM








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Chapter 4
4. MARKET APPLICATIONS OF PLASMA
TECHNOLOGY

Plasma antennas offer distinct advantages and can compete with most metal
antenna applications. The plasma antenna's advantages over conventional metal
elements are most obvious in military applications where stealth and electronic
warfare are primary concerns. Other important military factors are weight, size
and the ability to reconfigure. Potential military applications include:

Shipboard/submarine antenna replacements.
Unmanned air vehicle sensor antennas.
IFF ("identification friend or foe") land-based vehicle antennas.
Stealth aircraft antenna replacements.
Broad band jamming equipment including for spread-spectrum emitters.
ECM (electronic counter-measure) antennas.
Phased array element replacements.
EMI/ECI mitigation
Detection and tracking of ballistic missiles
Side and back lobe reduction

Military antenna installations can be quite sophisticated and just the
antenna portion of a communications or radar installation on a ship or submarine
can cost in the millions of dollars.
Plasma antenna technology has commercial applications in telemetry,
broad-band communications, ground penetrating radar, navigation, weather
radar, wind shear detection and collision avoidance, high-speed data (for
example Internet) communication spread spectrum communication, and cellular
radiation protection.
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Chapter 5
5. MEASURMENTS AND RESULTS

5.1 CHARACTERISTICS OF PLASMA COLUMN:-
The plasma column of different gases is characterized by using standard
Langmuir probe of length 5mm and radius 0.3mm. Plasma density and electron
temperature is measured. The probe is inserted from an end of the glass tube.
The probe is manually biased from 100 to +100 volts. By evaluating the slope of
the I-V characteristics, the electron temperature is obtained. The measured value
of the density is computed from measured ion saturation current. Plasma density
eV respectively. The plasma density and temperature of all gases such as
oxygen, nitrogen, air and argon are observed to be almost same for same
external parameters and probe position. Fig.2 shows that density profile along
the axis of the glass tube. It is measured by changing the position of the probe
from one end to the other. The plasma density decreases away from the RF
exciter, placed at one end. The plasma density


Fig.3 Axial density profile
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5.2 SURFACE WAVE DRIVEN PLASMA COLUMN:-
The plasma is formed by RF field (5 MHz to 32 MHz) at the capacitive
coupler. Surface wave excites at the interface of plasma and glass tube. There is
no external magnetic field. The plasma column of length of 35 cm is formed by
surface wave discharge. This surface wave is driven by 5 to 32 MHz frequency
and 100 to 400 watts input power by RF generator. Hence the column is called
the surface wave driven plasma column. The characterization of surface wave in
our system is given below.
The length of plasma column depends on input power used to drive the
surface wave. Fig 4 shows that the length of plasma column (0 cm to 35 cm)
increases with input power (0 to 40 watt), at constant working pressure.

Fig.4 variation in length of plasma column with
input power at different cosntant working
pressure and the length of glass tube is 35
cm.

The length of plasma column also depends on working pressure (.02 mbar
to .05 mbar) at constant input power, which is shown in Fig.5. the field
components of surface wave are measured by standard dipole probe and loop
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probe on the surface of glass tube, that magnitude of electric and magnetic field
decreases along the axis of plasma column which is shown in (Fig.6).

Fig.5 Variation in length of plasma antenna with working pressure at constant
input power,w=35 watt and the length of glass tube is 35 cm.


Fig.6 Axial electric field profile on the surface of plasma antenna.

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Azimuthal field pattern of the plasma column is measured by moving
probe in the horizontal plane around the plasma column in 15 degree increment
heights (5cm, 10cm, 15cm, 50cm) from the end
of plasma column where the source is situated. Fig.7 shows surface wave field
axisymmetric so azimuthal wave number is m=0.The power level of fundamental
harmonic decays along the axis of plasma column. This indicates damping or
attenuation of the wave inside the dielectric, which is measured by disc probe on
the surface of glass tube using spectrum analyzer. Fig.8 shows that the power
level at 5 MHz decreases from 8 dBm to 15 dBm along the axis of the plasma
column. The above experimental results show that axisymmetric electromagnetic
surface wave is propagating along the interface of plasma and glass tube. It
deposits wave power to the plasma to form a 35 cm long plasma column.

Fig.7 Azimuthal field pattern of plasma antenna at different heights from the
source of the plasma antenna

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Fig.8 Variation in power level of fundamental harmonic at f =5MHz along the
axis of plasma antenna.

5.3 PLASMA COLUMNS AS MONOPOLE ANTENNA:-
This surface wave driven plasma column acts as an antenna due to
associated surface current with surface wave. Surface current is distributed on
the interface of plasma and glass tube. The axial current distribution on the
surface of plasma column is shown in Fig.9, which is measured by using shielded
and calibrated Rogowaski coil which is mounted on the outer surface of the glass
tube.

Fig.9 Current distribution on the surface of plasma column at different working
pressure
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The magnitude of surface current depends on the plasma electron density,
which is decreasing along the axis of plasma column. As fig.9, shows the surface
current decreases along the axis of plasma antenna. This surface current which
is generated by 5 MHz driven frequency that generates electromagnetic field with
several harmonics which are shown in Fig.10.

Fig.10 Variation in power level of different harmonics.

As seen clearly, higher order harmonics vanish away from the plasma
antenna due to decay of power into medium (Fig.11), measured by spectrum
analyzer. There are 20 harmonics on the surface of plasma antenna having
higher power than background power level (-80 dBm) but 60 cm away from the
antenna, there are only 2 harmonics have higher power than background power.
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Fig.11 Number of harmonics as a function of radial distance


Fig.12 Elevation field pattern of plasma antenna at different Vertical planes
having 15 degree increment in azimuthal plane.

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The elevation pattern (Fig.12) of our plasma antenna is measured by
moving the probe in an arc over the plasma Antenna Under Test (AUT) with 15-
degree increment from 00 q 900 at different vertical planes and having 15
degree increment in horizontal plane. The azimuthal pattern (Fig.7) is also
measured by moving the probe in horizontal plane by 15 degree from 00 q
3600 at different heights (5cm, 10cm, 15cm, 50cm) from source end of the
antenna. Both these patterns are also measured in similar way for SS304 and
copper metallic antenna of similar dimensions as the plasma antennae. Patterns
are similar for the three antennae.
The Rayleigh criterion is usually taken as minimum distance from the AUT
to the far field where pattern measurements should be made. It is usually taken
to be greater then, 2L2/l where L is the largest AUT dimension. For our largest
effective antenna length (35 cm), this is about 4 mm for 5 MHz harmonic so both
patters are measured in far field region. The system dimension is much less then
wavelength (a<<l , L<<l ) where a is diameter (3 cm) and L is the length of
plasma antenna (35 cm). This plasma antenna will act as a monopole wire
antenna.

5.4 STRIATIONS IN PLASMA COLUMN:-
By changing external operating parameters such as working pressure (.03
mbar to 0.3 mbar), driven frequency (3.7 MHz to 32 MHz), input power (70 watt
to 400 watt), background pressure (10-3 mbar to 10-6 mbar) and length of glass
tube (5 cm to 30 cm), plasma column is transformed to finite number of
cylindrical or spherical striations (balls), helical plasma with rotation and plasma
with spiral shape. These states are visibly different and are shown in
photographs (Fig.13, 14,15). These different structures in plasma column are
transformed from a stable uniform inhomogeneous steady state (plasma column)
to unstable nonuniform inhomogeneous state, which again diffuses to stable
nonuniform inhomogenous observed steady state.
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Fig.13 Planer array plasma antenna

Fig.14 Helical plasma antenna.

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Fig.15 Spiral plasma antenna

5.5 STATIONARY STRIATIONS AS ARRAY PLASMA ANTENNA:-
At critical value which is the combination of input power and working
pressure (Fig.16) these cylindrical striations are separated from each other. The
separation between striations will be vanished at lower and higher value then the
critical value. Now each cylindrical striation forms a short length plasma column
having associated surface current so each cylindrical plasma element of plasma
column acts as a short antenna. These segments or elements of plasma antenna
are called antenna elements. The axial current distribution on the antenna
elements is shown in Fig.17. These different formations in the plasma are visible
at different pressures or power, keeping all other remaining parameters constant.
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Fig.16 Critical value of input power at various working pressures to form plasma
antenna elements.



Fig.17 Current distribution on the surface of planar array plasma antenna

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The parameters of antenna elements can be controlled such that number
and length of elements vary by changing the working pressure, power, driven
frequency and length of glass tube. Fig.18 shows that the number of antenna
elements increase with driven frequency and input power. The number of
elements vary from six to ten by operating at 5MHz, 100 watts of power to 32
MHz and 400 watts of power. Fig.19 shows that the number of elements are
increasing from one to six while the length of glass tube is varied from 5 cm to 30
cm. The length of first antenna element varies with driven frequency. It is 5 cm at
5 MHz and 2 cm at 32 MHz. The length of antenna elements decreases along
the antenna axis (Fig.20). This structure of plasma antenna acts as a planner
array antenna. Some other structures (Helical and Spiral) are also found in our
experiment, are shown in Fig.14 and 15. These structures of plasma act as
antenna, which can be called Helical plasma antenna and spiral plasma antenna.
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Fig. 18, 19 Variation in number of plasma antenna element with driven frequency
& along the length of the glass tube

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Fig.21 Variation in length of antenna elements as a function of number of
antenna elements at different working presser

5.6 EXPERIMENTS FOR VERSATILE PLASMA ANTENNA:-
Qualitative observations have been confirmed that the plasma antenna
can be used for transmitting and receiving audio signals or TV (video)
information. Two experiments, given below to show that plasma structures act as
receiving/transmitting antenna over the range 10 to 250 MHz for a range of RF
power levels and hence different effective length and structures for antenna.
(I) Jamming capabilities of EM waves of this antenna has been qualitatively
tested with standard FM radio receivers at 91.90 MHz. This FM channel could be
received in the absence of plasma column even though rf generator is kept ON.
But the effective range is measured as 170 cm away from plasma antenna when
plasma is formed, the reception of FM radio channel is cut off. This experiment is
performed by all structures of plasma antenna.
(II) The audio noise level is measured on the loudspeaker output terminal. The
noise level is measured with different structures of plasma antenna, which
formed as working pressure and without plasma in glass tube. The noise level is
reduced from 15.2 mV to 8.7 mV, Fig.22 shows clearly, the noise level is
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reducing with pressure and plasma antenna structure is also changing with
pressure so the planner array antenna and helical plasma antenna performs
better than the monopole plasma antenna. This plasma antenna acts as a
receiver when audio frequency (300-3400 Hz) which is converted to carrier
frequency (46-49 MHz) frequency multiplier and RF amplifier so the plasma
antenna works as Tx/Rx antenna. Plasma antenna is used for communication.
The communication range of our monopole plasma antenna is measured to be
45 meters, which is increased up to 60 meters with varying pressure or different
structure of plasma antenna, In comparison the communication range with a
similar metallic telescope antenna is measured as 50 meters. The
communication range increases with different structures. All these structures of
plasma act as antenna. Different type of antenna structures is formed in a single
system by changing the external parameters, so it can be named as a versatile
plasma antenna.




Fig.21 Variation in noise level with working pressure

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Chapter 6
6. RADIATION PATTERN

The radiation pattern of the tube working as an antenna is measured by a
standard transmitter-receiver system `Signet Antenna Analyzing Equipment's (S-
99R, S-99T, S-99V)'. The schematic experimental set up for this purpose is
shown in Figure 22. The radiation pattern is measured in the H plane
(perpendicular to the antenna).


Figure22. Picture of Plasma antenna on the Signet receiver.



Figure 23. Schematic picture showing the antenna with respect to the Trans-
mitting system in the co polar position.
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A 3 element Yagi antenna is taken as the transmitter to radiate at 590 MHz.
The plasma antenna is mounted on the revolving machine and connected to the
receiver. For each 1 degree, the receiver measures the power received by the
plasma antenna in dB micro Volt (dBV) and stores it in the internal array
memory. Two such arrays (of 360 points each) are provided. The observed
pattern is shown in Figure 24 for frequency 590 MHz. Both curves are polar plots,
showing angular variation of the normalized received power. The outer circle has
a constant value 0 dB in this scale, and the inner circle has a value 10 dB. The
measurement, with reference to Figure 22, is done for one particular polarization
of the transmitter (or one particular transmitter) at a time, for a full rotation of 360
degree of the receiver. First measurement is referred to as `Array 1', as shown
on the upper left panel of Figure 10. We can mark two cursors on the Array 1
curve that show the received power in dBV at those particular angle values, as
shown on the lower left panel of Figure 24. In our measurement, Array 1 curve,
marked `A', is for co-polarization. The rst cursor shows the maximum value of
received power having a value 73.4 dB at 193 degree, while the second cursor
shows the minimum value of received power having a value 59.0 dB at 24
degree. The second measurement referred to as `Array 2' is for a cross
polarization between the transmitter and plasma antenna, and this curve is
marked `B'. No cursors can be marked on this, as it has to be analyzed relative to
the Array 1 results. Also, it can be seen from Figure 24 that from angle 0 degree
to 60 degree, the received power values are approximately equal in both co- and
cross-polarizations. This happens due to scattering of fields from the coaxial
cable because it comes in between the transmitting and receiving antennas. This
coaxial cable has been used for power supply to the upper electrode of the
fluorescent tube.

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Figure 24. Radiation from the plasma antenna shows monopole patterns.












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Chapter 7
7. UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS OF A PLASMA
ANTENNA

One fundamental distinguishing feature of a plasma antenna is that the
gas ionizing process can manipulate resistance. When demonized, the gas has
infinite resistance and does not interact with RF radiation. When demonized the
gas antenna will not backscatter radar waves (providing stealth) and will not
absorb high-power microwave radiation (reducing the effect of electronic warfare
countermeasures). A second fundamental distinguishing feature is that after
sending a pulse the plasma antenna can be demonized, eliminating the ringing
associated with traditional metal elements. Ringing and the associated noise of a
metal antenna can severely limit capabilities in high frequency short pulse
transmissions. In these applications, metal antennas are often accompanied by
sophisticated computer signal processing. By reducing ringing and noise, we
believe our plasma antenna provides increased accuracy and reduces computer
signal processing requirements. These advantages are important in cutting edge
applications for impulse radar and high-speed digital communications. Based on
the results of development to date, plasma antenna technology has the following
additional attributes:
No antenna ringing provides an improved signal to noise ratio and
reduces multipath signal distortion.
Reduced radar cross section provides stealth due to the non-metallic
elements.
Changes in the ion density can result in instantaneous changes in
bandwidth over wide dynamic ranges.
After the gas is ionized, the plasma antenna has virtually no noise floor.
While in operation, a plasma antenna with a low ionization level can be
decoupled from an adjacent high-frequency transmitter.
A circular scan can be performed electronically with no moving parts at a
higher speed than traditional mechanical antenna structures.
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It has been mathematically illustrated that by selecting the gases and
changing ion density that the electrical aperture (or apparent footprint) of a
plasma antenna can be made to perform on par with a metal counterpart
having a larger physical size.
Our plasma antenna can transmit and receive from the same aperture
provided the frequencies are widely separated.
Plasma resonance, impedance and electron charge density are all
dynamically reconfigurable. Ionized gas antenna elements can be
constructed and configured into an array that is dynamically reconfigurable
for frequency, beam width, power, gain, polarization and directionality - on
the fly.
A single dynamic antenna structure can use time multiplexing so that
many RF subsystems can share one antenna resource reducing the
number and size of antenna structures.












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Chapter 8
8. SPONSORED WORK

To date, plasma antenna technology has been studied and characterized
by ASI Technology Corporation revealing several favorable attributes in
connection with antenna applications. The work was carried out in part through
two ONR sponsored contracts. NCCOSC RDTE Division, San Diego, awarded
contract N66001-97-M-1153 1 May 1997. The major objective of the program
was to determine the noise levels associated with the use of gas plasma as a
conductor for a transmitting and receiving antenna. Both laboratory and field-test
measurements were conducted. The second contract N00014-98- C-0045 was a
6-month SBIR awarded by ONR on November 15, 1997. The major objective of
this effort was to characterize the GP antenna for conductivity, ionization
breakdowns, upper frequency limits, excitation and relaxation times, ignition
mechanisms, temperatures and thermionic noise emissions and compare these
results to a reference folded copper wire monopole. The measured radiation
patterns of the plasma antenna compared very well with copper wire antennas.
ASI Technology Corporation is under contract with General Dynamics
Electric Boat Division and in conjunction with the Plasma Physics Laboratory at
the University of Tennessee, an inflatable plasma antenna is being developed.
This antenna is designed to operate at 2.4 Ghz and would be mounted on the
mast of an attack submarine. In addition a prototype plasma waveguide and
plasma reflector has been designed and demonstrated to General Dynamics.
The following discussion illustrates why there is military and government
support for plasma antenna concepts. The gas plasma antenna conducts
electron current like a metal and hence can be made into an antenna but with
distinct advantages. The following technological concepts are important to
plasma antennas:

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1. Higher power - Increased power can be achieved in the plasma antenna than
in the corresponding metal antenna because of lower Ohmic losses. Plasmas
have a much wider range of power capability than metals as evident from low
powered plasma in fluorescent bulbs to extremely high-powered plasmas in the
Princeton University experimental fusion reactors. In this range, a high-powered
plasma antenna is still low powered plasma. Since plasmas do not melt, the
plasma antennas can provide heat and fire resistance. The higher achievable
power and directivity of the plasma antenna can enhance target discrimination
and track ballistic missiles at the S and X band.
2. Enhanced bandwidth - By the use of electrodes or lasers the plasma density
can be controlled. The theoretical calculations on the controlled variation of
plasma density in space and time suggest that greater bandwidth of the plasma
antenna can be achieved than the corresponding metal antenna of the same
geometry. This enhanced bandwidth can improve discrimination.
3. EMI/ECI - The plasma antenna is transparent to incoming electromagnetic
signals in the low density or turned off mode. This eliminates or diminishes
EMI/ECI thereby producing stealth. Several plasma antennas can have their
electron densities adjusted so that they can operate in close proximity and one
antenna can operate invisible to others. In this physical arrangement mutual side
lobe and back lobe clutter is highly reduced and hence jamming and clutter is
reduced.
4. Higher efficiency and gain - Radiation efficiency in the plasma antenna is
higher due to lower Ohmic losses in the plasma. Standing wave efficiency is
higher because phase conjugate matching with the antenna feeds can be
achieved by adjusting the plasma density and can be maintained during
reconfiguration. Estimates indicate a 20db improvement in antenna efficiency.
5. Reconfiguration and mutifunctionality - The plasma antenna can be
reconfigured on the fly by controlled variation of the plasma density in space and
time with far more versatility than any arrangement of metal antennas. This
reduces the number of required elements reducing size and weight of shipboard
antennas. One option is to construct controlled density plasma blankets around
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plasma antennas thereby creating windows (low-density sections of the blanket)
for main lobe transmission or reception and closing windows (high-density
regions in the plasma blanket). The plasma windowing effect enhances directivity
and gain in a single plasma antenna element so that an array will have less
elements than a corresponding metal antenna array. Closing plasma windows
where back lobes and side lobes exist eliminates them and reduces jamming and
clutter. This sidelobe reduction below 40db enhances directivity and
discrimination. In addition, by changing plasma densities, a single antenna can
operate at one bandwidth (e.g. communication) while suppressing another
bandwidth (e.g. radar).
6. Lower noise - The plasma antenna has a lower collision rate among its
charge carriers than a metal antenna and calculations show that this means less
noise.
7. Perfect reflector - When the plasma density is high the plasma becomes a
loss-less perfect reflector. Hence there exist the possibilities of a wide range of
lightweight plasma reflector antennas.










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Chapter 9
9. ADVANTAGES

The advantage of a plasma antenna is that it can appear and disappear in
a few millionths of a second. This means that when the antenna is not required, it
can be made to disappear, leaving behind the gas filled column that has little
effect on the electromagnetic fields in the proximity of the tube. The same will be
true for fiber glass and plastic tubes, which are also under consideration.
The other advantage of plasma antenna is that even when they are
ionized and in use at the lower end of the radio spectrum, say HF
communications, they are still near transparent to fields at microwave
frequencies.
The same effect is observed with the use of ionosphere, which is plasma.
Every night amateur radio operators bounce their signals off the ionosphere to
achieve long distance communications, whilst microwave satellite communication
signals pass through the ionosphere.









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CONCLUSION

As part of a blue skies research program, DSTO has teamed up with the
ANUs Plasma Research Laboratory to investigate the possibility of using
plasmas like those generated in fluorescent ceiling lights, for antennas.
The research may one day have far reaching applications from robust
military antennas through to greatly improve external television aerials. Antennas
constructed of metal can be big and bulky, and are normally fixed in place. The
fact that metal structures cannot be easily moved when not in use limits some
aspects of antenna array design. It can also pose problems when there is a
requirement to locate many antennas in a confined area.
Weapons System Division has been studying the concept of using plasma
columns for antennas, and has begun working in collaboration with ANU plasma
physicists Professor Jeffrey Harris and Dr. Gerard Borg. Work by the team has
already led to a provisional patent and has generated much scientific interest as
it is so novel. It offers a paradigm shift in the way we look at antennas and is
already providing the opportunity to create many new and original antenna
designs.
Plasma is an ionized gas and can be formed by subjecting a gas to strong
electric or magnetic fields. The yellow lights in streets are a good example of
plasmas though a better example is the fluorescent tubes commonly used for
lighting in homes.
The type of plasma antenna under investigation is constructed using a
hollow glass column which is filled with an inert gas. This can be ionized by the
application of a strong RF field at the base of the column. Once energized, the
plasma column can be made to exhibit many of the same characteristics of a
metal whip antenna of the type mounted on most cars. The metal whips that may
be considered for a plasma replacement are anywhere from a few centimeters to
several meters long.
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There are many potential advantages of plasma antennas, and DSTO and
ANU are now investigating the commercialization of the technology. Plasma
antenna technology offers the possibility of building completely novel antenna
arrays, as well as radiation pattern control and lobe steering mechanisms that
have not been possible before. To date, the research has produced many novel
antennas using standard fluorescent tubes and these have been characterized
and compare favorably with their metal equivalents. For example, a 160 MHz
communications link was demonstrated using plasma antennas for both base
and mobile stations. Current research is working towards a robust plasma
antenna for field demonstration to Defense Force personnel.















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