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Production of Electromagnetic Waves by an Antenna

Neither stationary charges nor steady currents can produce electromagnetic waves. Whenever the current through a wire changes with time, however, the wire emits electromagnetic radiation. The fundamental mechanism responsible for this radiation is the acceleration of a charged particle. Whenever a charged particle accelerates, it must radiate energy.

An alternating voltage applied to the wires of an antenna forces an electric charge in the antenna to oscillate. This is a common technique for accelerating charges and is the source of the radio waves emitted by the transmitting antenna of a radio station. Figure 34.12 shows how this is done. Two metal rods are connected to a generator that provides a sinusoidally oscillating voltage. This causes charges to oscillate in the two rods. At t = 0, the upper rod is given a maximum positive charge and the bottom rod an equal negative charge, as shown in Figure 34.12a. The electric field near the antenna at this instant is also shown in Figure 34.12a. As the positive and negative charges decrease from their maximum values, the rods become less charged, the field near the rods decreases in strength, and the downward-directed maximum electric field produced at t = 0 moves away from the rod. (A magnetic field oscillating in a direction perpendicular to the plane of the diagram in Fig. 34.12 accompanies the oscillating electric field, but it is not shown for the sake of clarity.) When the charges on the rods are momentarily zero (Fig. 34.12b), the electric field at the rod has dropped to zero. This occurs at a time equal to one quarter of the period of oscillation.
electric field produced by an antenna Figure 34.12 The electric field set up by charges oscillating in an antenna. The field moves away from the antenna with the speed of light.

As the generator charges the rods in the opposite sense from that at the beginning, the upper rod soon obtains a maximum negative charge and the lower rod a maximum positive charge (Fig. 34.12c); this results in an electric field near the rod that is directed upward after a time equal to one-half the period of oscillation. The oscillations continue as indicated in Figure 34.12d. The electric field near the antenna oscillates in phase with the charge distribution. That is, the field points down when the upper rod is positive and up when the upper rod is negative. Furthermore, the magnitude of the field at any instant depends on the amount of charge on the rods at that instant.
As the charges continue to oscillate (and accelerate) between the rods, the electric field they set up moves away from the antenna at the speed of light. As you can see from Figure 34.12, one cycle of charge oscillation produces one wavelength in the electric-field pattern.
Next, consider what happens when two conducting rods are connected to the terminals of a battery (Fig. 34.13). Before the switch is closed, the current is zero, so no fields are present (Fig. 34.13a). Just after the switch is closed, positive charge begins to build up on one rod and negative charge on the other (Fig. 34.13b), a situation that corresponds to a time-varying current. The changing charge distribution causes the electric field to change; this in turn produces a magnetic field around the rods. Finally, when the rods are fully charged, the current is zero; hence, no magnetic field exists at that instant (Fig. 34.13c).
production of electromagnetic waves by an antenna Figure 34.13 A pair of metal rods connected to a battery. (a) When the switch is open and no current exists, the electric and magnetic fields are both zero. (b) Immediately after the switch is closed, the rods are being charged (so a current exists). Because the current is changing, the rods generate changing electric and magnetic fields. (c) When the rods are fully charged, the current is zero, the electric field is a maximum, and the magnetic field is zero.

Now let us consider the production of electromagnetic waves by a half-wave antenna. In this arrangement, two conducting rods are connected to a source of alternating voltage (such as an LC oscillator), as shown in Figure 34.14. The length of each rod is equal to one quarter of the wavelength of the radiation that will be emitted when the oscillator operates at frequency f. The oscillator forces charges to accelerate back and forth between the two rods. Figure 34.14 shows the configuration of the electric and magnetic fields at some instant when the current is upward. The electric field lines resemble those of an electric dipole. (As a result, this type of antenna is sometimes called a dipole antenna.) Because these charges are continuously oscillating between the two rods, the antenna can be approximated by an oscillating electric dipole. The magnetic field lines form concentric circles around the antenna and are perpendicular to the electric field lines at all points. The magnetic field is zero at all points along the axis of the antenna. Furthermore, E and B are 90° out of phase in time because the current is zero when the charges at the outer ends of the rods are at a maximum.
production of electromagnetic waves by half-wave antenna At the two points where the magnetic field is shown in Figure 34.14, the Poynting vector S is directed radially outward. This indicates that energy is flowing away from the antenna at this instant. At later times, the fields and the Poynting vector change direction as the current alternates. Because E and B are 90° out of phase at points near the dipole, the net energy flow is zero. From this, we might conclude(incorrectly) that no energy is radiated by the dipole.

However, we find that energy is indeed radiated. Because the dipole fields fall off as 1/r3, they are not important at great distances from the antenna. However, at these great distances, something else causes a type of radiation different from that close to the antenna. The source of this radiation is the continuous induction of an electric field by the time-varying magnetic field and the induction of a magnetic field by the time-varying electric field, predicted by Equations 34.3 and 34.4. The electric and magnetic fields produced in this manner are in phase with each other and vary as 1/r. The result is an outward flow of energy at all times.
electric field lines surrounding a dipole antenna Figure 34.15 Electric field lines surrounding a dipole antenna at a given instant. The radiation fields propagate outward from the antenna with a speed c .

The electric field lines produced by a dipole antenna at some instant are shown in Figure 34.15 as they propagate away from the antenna. Note that the intensity and the power radiated are a maximum in a plane that is perpendicular to the antenna and passing through its midpoint. Furthermore, the power radiated is zero along the antenna’s axis. A mathematical solution to Maxwell’s equations for the dipole antenna shows that the intensity of the radiation varies as (sin2θ) / r2, where θ is measured from the axis of the antenna. The angular dependence of the radiation intensity is sketched in Figure 34.16.
angular dependence of intensity of radiation by dipole antenna Electromagnetic waves can also induce currents in a receiving antenna. The response of a dipole receiving antenna at a given position is a maximum when the antenna axis is parallel to the electric field at that point and zero when the axis is perpendicular to the electric field.

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