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Everything You Need to Know About How Microwave Antennas Work

March 3, 2017 Francine Jones 0 Comments

Modern communication networks could never function without microwave antennas, but only a small part of the population understands how they work. That’s a shame, since every society can benefit from having plenty of people who understands the basics of the technology that surrounds them. Fortunately, the principles that allow microwave antennas to function are fairly simple, as is the networking system that turns them into a platform for communication.

How Microwaves Work

The first step towards understanding microwave antennas is understanding the microwaves themselves. A microwave is a type of electromagnetic radiation that takes the form of a very small wave. They are invisible to the naked eye, but specialized receptors can still measure them. They consist of a regular sequence of high and low points. The exact magnitude of the wave, as well as the distance between those points, will vary from one wave to the next.

The waves can travel through the air, but only for a limited distance. Since they can’t curve to go around obstacles, their range is capped by the curve of the planet, even if nothing else blocks them. That means that it’s easy to estimate the maximum range of a microwave through line-of-sight, and they can rarely travel for more than forty miles.

Transmission and Reception

Humans can create these waves with microwave transmitters. The device will produce a wave with a specific set of characteristics, and send it out in a specific direction. If the microwave is being used for communication, the transmitter will use a code to convert a set of audio or visual information into a specific wave before sending it out into the air.

The wave will travel to a receiver, which collects the wave and measures its characteristics. If it is part of a communication network, it will put the wave through the same code that the transmitter used to turn it back into the original information. The conversion won’t be perfect if any other signals interfered with the wave, but modern transmission systems can avoid that problem under normal circumstances.

Antenna Networks

At the most fundamental level, that is all that a communication network needs to function properly. Unfortunately, a single transmitter can only cover a limited range. Communication companies solve that problem by constructing a network of many transmitters and receivers. When a signal leaves one transmitter, it travels to a receiver that is a little bit closer to the final destination. The receiver passes it on to a new transmitter, which sends the wave out again. That continues until the wave reaches its final destination, even if it needed to travel hundreds of miles to get there. Since satellites can cover a surprisingly large range, it’s rare to use more than a few transmitters to reach the final destination, but even they can’t completely remove the need for intermediate transmitters.

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