Fast and accurate: Array antenna simulations in mere minutes on your laptop

08 May 2024

In the new era of satellite constellations such as Starlink, and with a quest for flat-panel portable user terminals, flexible satellite payloads, 6G wireless communication, and advanced radar systems, phased-array antennas are ubiquitous.

Why array antennas? An array antenna is a collection of basic radiators where excitation amplitudes and phases of the individual elements of the array constitute degrees of freedom that can be exploited for steering, scanning, and shaping the array antenna radiation pattern. Array antennas are generally flat and thus easy to integrate onto satellites, airplanes, vehicles, and ships. Together with their functional flexibility, this makes them ideal candidates for a plethora of modern antenna applications.

Simulation of 1024-element array antenna. Inspired by NASA JPL’s high-gain antenna for a potential Europa lander.

For larger flexibility and to ensure low-power and stable communication links, electrically large antenna arrays are required.

Today, approximate synthesis methods that do not account accurately for mutual coupling between the elements of a large finite array are adopted, which makes array antenna development slow and costly and prone to trial-and-error development cycles.

To address the limitations of existing methods, TICRA has initiated several activities, some with support from the European Space Agency, to develop a dedicated software tool for accurate analysis and design of large array antennas.

TICRA’s Magnus Brandt-Møller and Erik Jørgensen

As part of this development, a recently concluded PhD project by TICRA’s Magnus Brandt-Møller demonstrated the ability to perform full-wave simulations of complex antenna arrays with thousands of elements in just a few minutes on a laptop computer.

These novel full-wave algorithms will pave the way for the design and optimisation of next-generation flexible array antennas

Erik Jørgensen, Principal Technical Advisor at TICRA, says: “These novel full-wave algorithms will pave the way for the design and optimisation of next-generation flexible array antennas, allowing us to do things which are not possible with the approximate design methods.”

The work has just been published in IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation.

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