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NOTES (17 FEB.

2012, BY SHAO YING HUANG)

Loss Tangent
Shao Ying Huang
Abstract
+

Loss tangent is frequency dependant. For microwave engineering, lossy materials are given with dielectric constants (r ) and
loss tangent (tan ). As = r 0 , the complex permittivity of the material can be reconstructed as
tan =

= r 0 (1 j tan )
For lossless material, there is no loss and tan = 0, the permittivity is real and is simply
= r 0
Reference: [1] [2]

For a dielectric material, an applied electric field E causes the polarization of atoms/molecules of the materials to create
electric dipole moments that augment the total displacement flux, D. This additional polarization vector is called P e , the
electric polarization, where
D = 0 E + P e .
(1)
In a linear medium, the electric polarization is linearly related to the applied electric field as
P e = 0 e E,

(2)

where e is the electric susceptibility which may be complex. Then,


D = 0 E + P e = 0 (1 + e )E = E,

(3)

where is the complex permittivity of the medium. It is expressed as


= 0 (1 + e ) = j

(4)

The imaginary part of , , accounts for the loss in the medium (heat) due to damping of the vibrating dipole moments
(it is called dielectric damping). It must be negative ( is positive) due to energy conservation. Lossless dielectric materials,
such as free-space, has zero imaginary part for . The dielectric damping loss and conductor loss are loss of different forms
in materials.
In a material with conductivity , a conduction current density is linked to the applied electric field in the following way,
J c = E

(5)

For a material with conductor loss and dielectric damping loss,


H

jD + J c

jE + E
j E + ( + )E

= j( j j )E

(6)
= j[ j( + )]E

The imaginary part of the last equality in (6) counts for the loss of the material. It includes the dielectric damping loss ( )
and the conductivity loss (/). (6) can be expressed as

H = j[ j( + )]E

= j[ j( + ]E
(7)
=
=

where ( + ) can be considered as the total effective conductivity of a material. From (7), we have

= j( + )

+
= [1 j(
)]

= [1 j tan ]

(8)

NOTES (17 FEB. 2012, BY SHAO YING HUANG)

tan is called loss tangent. As shown in (8), loss tangent includes dielectric damping loss and conductivity loss of a material.
The two type of loss are distinguishable to each other. Most importantly, it is frequency dependant.
For microwave engineering, lossy materials are given with dielectric constants (r ) and loss tangent. As = r 0 , the
complex permittivity of the material can be reconstructed as
= r 0 (1 j tan )

(9)

For lossless material, there is no loss and tan = 0, the permittivity is real and is simply
= r 0

(10)

In some reference [2], the damping of the vibrating dipole moments is considered separately in the following way,
H

= jD + J c + J f

= j( j )E + J f

(11)

In the discussion in the reference in [2], the complex permittivity


= (1 j

does not include the dielectric damping loss.


R EFERENCES
[1] D. M. Pozar, Microwave Engineering, 3rd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998.
[2] J. A. Kong, Electromagnetic Wave Theory. EMW Publishing, 2008, p. 268.

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