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Electromagnetic Wave Propagation

By: Engr. Shinbei Batac


Electromagnetic Wave
Electrical energy that has escaped into free space
Travel in a straight line at approximately the
speed of light and are made up of magnetic and
electric fields that are right angles to each other
and at right angles to the direction of propagation
Essential properties: Frequency, Intensity,
Direction of Travel, Plane of Polarization

Radio Waves
A form of electromagnetic radiation similar to
light and heat
Differ from other radiations in the manner in
which they area generated and detected and in
frequency range
Consists of traveling electric and magnetic fields
with the energy evenly divided between two types
of fields

Orientation of the electric field vector in respect to the Earths
Linear Polarization Polarization remains constant. Its 2
forms are:
Horizontal Polarization If propagating parallel to Earths surface
Vertical Polarization If the electric field is propagating in
perpendicular to Earths surface

Circular Polarization If the polarization vector rotates 360 as

the wave moves one wavelength through space and field strength is
equal at all angles of polarization

Elliptical Polarization When field strength varies with

changes in polarization


Aids to illustrating the effects of
electromagnetic wave propagation
through free space
Ray line drawn along the direction
of electromagnetic wave propagation;
however does not necessarily
represent the propagation of a single
electromagnetic wave
Wavefront shows a surface of
constant phase of electromagnetic
source are joined together
Plane surface: wavefront is
perpendicular to direction of
Closer to source: More complicated
Rays within a small area of a
spherical wavefront: Nearly parallel
Farther from source: more wave
propagation appears a plane

Magnetic field (H)

Invisible force field produced by a magnet, such as a conductor

when current is flowing through it
Continuous; however, it is a standard for performing
calculations and measurements to represent a magnetic field
with individual lines of force

Electric field (E)

Invisible force fields produced by a difference in voltage
potential between two conductors

Electric Field

Magnetic Field

Characteristic Impedance

Relates electric and magnetic field intensities in free space

For a lossless transmission medium, it is equal to


Spherical Wavefront
Isotropic radiator

a point source that radiates power at a constant rate uniformly in all

directions closely approx.. by an omnidirectional antenna
Produces a spherical wavefront with radius R, where all points rely and have
equal power densities

Power Density


reduction in power density as waves propagate
through free space when they spread out
Described by the inverse square law for radiation
Wave Attenuation (a) reduction in power density with distance
equivalent to power loss

Presumes free space propagation (nearly a vacuum)

Space Attenuation attenuation due to the spherical spreading of the wave

-reduction in power density due to non-free-space

Homogenous medium
one with uniform properties throughout
absorption experienced during the first mile of propagation
is the same for the last mile

Inhomogenous medium
absorption coefficient varies considerably with location,
thus creating a difficult problem for radio systems engineer


Refraction bending
Reflection bouncing
Diffraction scattering
Interference colliding


Bending of the radio-wave path

Actually changing of direction of an electromagnetic ray as it
passes obliquely from one medium into another with difference
Occurs when a radio wave passes from one medium into
another medium of different density

Normal - An imaginary line drawn perpendicular to the interface at the point of

Angle of incidence - Angle formed between the incident wave and the normal
Angle of refraction - Angle formed between the incident wave and the normal

Power Transmission Coefficient (T) portion of

total incident power that is not reflected
Absorption Coefficient fraction of power that
penetrates medium 2
Irregular or rough surface may destroy the shape
of the wavefront
Diffuse reflection When an incident wavefront
strikes an irregular surface, it is randomly scattered in
many directions
Specular (mirrorlike) surfaces Reflection from a
perfectly smooth surface
Semirough surfaces surfaces that fall between
smooth and irregular

Spreads out or scattering
Modulation or redistribution of energy within a wavefront when
it passes near the edge of an opaque object
A phenomenon that allows light or radio waves to propagate
(peek) around corners

Hyugens Principle
used to explain when a wavefront passes near an obstacle or
discontinuity with dimensions comparable in size to a wavelength
States that every point on a given spherical wavefront can be
considered as a secondary point source of electromagnetic waves
from which other secondary waves (wavelets) are radiated

Shadow Zone
Diffraction occurs around the edge of the obstacle, which allows
secondary waves to sneak around the corner of the obstacle

Act of interfering
Occurs when two or more electromagnetic waves
combine in such a way that system performance is
Subjects to the principle of linear superposition of
electromagnetic waves and occurs whenever two or
more waves simultaneously occupy the same point
in space

Linear Superposition
Its principle states that the total voltage intensity at
a given point in space is the sum of the individual
wave vectors

Terrestrial Waves are electromagnetic waves travelling within the Earths
Terrestrial Radio Communications communication between two or more points on
the Earth.
Sky waves used for high frequency applications

Types of Wave Propagation

Surface Wave Propagation

Disadvantages of Surface/Ground
Ground waves require a relative transmission
Ground waves are limited to a very low, low, and
medium frequencies
Requiring large antennas
Ground losses vary considerably with the surface
material and composition

Advantages of Ground Waves:

Given enough transmit power, ground waves can
be used to communicate between any two
locations in the world
Ground waves are relatively unaffected by
changing atmospheric conditions.

Space Wave Propagation

Space Wave Propagation includes radiated
energy that travels in the lower few miles of the
Earths atmosphere.
Direct Waves - Travel essentially in a straight line
between transmit and receive antennas.
Line-of-Sight (LOS) transmission - Space wave
propagation with direct waves.
Radio Horizon - The curvature of Earth presents
a horizon to space wave propagation.

Sky Wave Propagation

Sky waves are electromagnetic waves that
are directed above the horizon level. Sometimes
called as ionospheric propagation.
Ionosphere - region of space located
approximately 50 km to 400 km ( 30 to 250 mi )
above the Earths surface.
absorbs the large quantities of suns radiant
energy, which ionizes the air molecules, creating
free electrons.

Sky Wave Propagation

D-layer is the lowest layer of the ionosphere.

Approximately 30 miles and 60 miles (50km to 100km)
above the Earths surface. Because it is the farthest from
the sun, there is only little ionization. However, ions in
the D-layer can absorb appreciable amounts of
electromagnetic energy.

The amount of ionization depends on the altitude of the

sun above the horizon. D-layer reflects VLF and LF
waves and absorbs MF and HF waves.

E-layer approximately 60 miles to 85 miles (100km

to 140km) above the Earths surface. Sometimes called
Kennelly-Heaviside layer.
Has the maximum density approximately 70 miles at
noon when the sun is in the highest point. E-layer aids
MF surface wave propagation and reflects HF waves
somewhat during daytime.

Sporadic Layer- upper portion of the E-layer

F-layer made up of two layer F1 and F2 layers.

During daytime, F1 is located 85 miles to 155 miles
(140km to 250km) above the Earths surface; F2 is
located 85 miles to 185 miles (140km to 300km) at
winter and 155 miles to 220 miles (250km to 350km)
during summer.
During the night, F1 layer combines with F2 layer to
form a single layer. F1 layer absorbs and attenuates HF
waves, although most of the waves pass F2 where they
are refracted back to Earth.

Critical Frequency and Critical Angle

Critical Frequency
Highest frequency that can be propagated directly upward and
still be returned to Earth by the ionosphere
Depends on the ionization density, varies with time of day and
Used only as a point of reference for comparison purposes

Critical Angle
Maximum vertical angle at which it can be propagated and still be
refracted back by the ionosphere

Ionospheric Sounding
Used to determine the critical frequency

Virtual Height
Height above the Earths surface from which a
refracted wave appears to have been reflected
ha - actual maximum height the wave reaches
hv maximum height that this hypothetical
reflected wave would have reached


Skip Distance

Minimum distance from a transmit antenna that a sky wave at a given

frequency will be returned to Earth
This frequency must be less than the maximum usable frequency and
propagated at its critical angle
When the radiation angle (), exceeds the critical angle (), the wave
penetrates the ionosphere and escapes Earths atmosphere.

2 rays that can take different paths and still be returned to the
same point on Earth;

Lower ray
Upper Ray or Pedersen Ray usually of little significance because it
spreads over a much larger area than the lower ray
Becomes important when circumstances prevent the lower ray from
reaching a particular point

Skip Zone (or Quiet Zone)

Area between the where the surface waves are completely dissipated and
the point where the first sky wave returns to Earth
An area where there is no reception


Loss incurred by an electromagnetic wave as it propagates in a
straight line through a vacuum, with no absorption or reflection
of energy from nearby objects
A fabricated engineering quantity that evolved from manipulating
communications system link budget equations into a particular

Link Equations

Include transmit antenna gain, free-space path loss, and effective

area of the receiving antenna

Spreading Loss
A term for a phenomena where no electromagnetic energy is
actually loss or dissipated it merely spreads out as it propagates
away from the source, resulting in lower relative power densities
Occurs simply because of the inverse square law.


Variation in signal loss that can be caused by natural
weather disturbances
such as rainfall, snowfall,
fog, hail and extremely cold air over a warm Earth.
It can also be caused by man-made disturbances such as
irrigation, or from multiple transmission path, irregular
Earth surfaces and varying terrain.

Fade Margin
the additional loss added to the normal path loss to
accommodate temporary fading