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Chip Antennas

Written by Shalini Nagar

Redefining Wireless Connectivity

Chip antennas have revolutionized the field of wireless communication technology. Commonly made for frequencies between 300MHz and 2500MHz, they offer a compact and efficient solution for the transmission and reception of signals. With their small size and low power usage, they have the potential to completely change the future of wireless communication—from smartphones and wearables to the Internet of Things (IoT), and beyond.

Current Market Trends

The market for chip antennas is experiencing a steady increase in demand on the back of the growing adoption of wireless communication technologies in diverse industries. As per January 2021 statistics, the global share for wireless connections totaled 9.3 billion. According to Research Nester’s June 2023 report “Chip Antenna Market: Global Demand Analysis & Opportunity Outlook 2035,” the global chip antenna market is poised to record a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 10% over 2023-2035. Further, it’s expected to grow from its 2022 market size of $4 billion USD to around $9 billion USD by the end of 2035.

Rising demand for connected cars and autonomous vehicles (AVs) will offer lucrative business opportunities for chip antenna companies, as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) bring to market efficient and reliable wireless connectivity solutions that deliver high performance under challenging conditions. Today, most AV radar systems utilize an array of micro antennas capable of generating a set of antenna lobes, such as a 77GHz radar comprised of printed circuit board (PCB) antennas and a 24GHz radar comprised of horn antennas.

Design Considerations for Chip Antenna

When designing chip antenna technology, there are several important considerations to keep in mind. These include the frequency range, impedance matching, and PCB layout, each detailed below.

Frequency range: Most obviously, the chip antenna’s frequency range should align with the intended application. Different antennas are designed to operate at specific frequency bands, such as 2.4GHz for Wi-Fi or 5.8GHz for Bluetooth.

Impedance matching: Impedance matching is critical for optimizing a chip antenna’s performance. The antenna should match the impedance of the RF circuitry to ensure maximum power transfer and minimum signal loss. This can be achieved through careful selection of component values and proper tuning. Below are six different techniques used for impedance matching.

  • L-matching uses an inductor (L) and a capacitor (C) to match the impedance of the antenna to the transmission line.
  • T-Matching utilizes a combination of series and parallel LC networks to achieve impedance matching.
  • Pi-matching consists of a series inductor (L) and two shunt capacitors (C) in a pi-shaped configuration (literally resembles the Greek letter “pi”).
  • Lumped element matching employs discrete components such as inductors and capacitors to achieve impedance matching.
  • Stub matching uses open or short-circuited transmission line stubs to cancel out reactive components and achieve impedance matching.
  • A quarter-wave transformer employs a transmission line of a quarter-wavelength to match the impedance of the antenna to the system.

PCB layout: The PCB layout plays a significant role in the performance of the chip antenna. Carefully design the PCB layout to minimize interference and ensure proper signal propagation. Factors such as ground planes, component placement, and trace routing must be considered. Let’s take a closer look at these aspects of design:

  • A ground plane is essential for chip antennas to function properly. It acts as a reference point for the antenna’s radiation pattern and helps improve efficiency. The ground plane should be large enough (at least a quarter of the wavelength of the radio waves in radius), and positioned beneath the antenna to provide the desired performance.
  • Certain components or structures, such as metal shields, near the antenna can cause interference and degrade performance. Define “keep out” zones—areas in which no components or structures can be placed.
  • The chip antenna’s orientation can affect its performance. Align the antenna in the desired direction for the optimal radiation pattern and coverage.
Simulation and Testing

When designing chip antennas, simulation and testing are important to ensure optimal performance. This involves using software tools and measurement techniques to evaluate the antenna’s characteristics and make necessary adjustments.

For engineers, simulation software provides a way to model and analyze the behavior of chip antennas in a virtual environment. It can be used to simulate a broad range of parameters, including impedance matching, radiation pattern, and gain. Today, engineers can choose from a variety of simulation software, including Ansys HFSS, CST Studio Suite, and FEKO.

Chip antennas’ performance can be tested to ensure they meet manufacturer specifications. This is achieved through specialized equipment and techniques used to measure gain, radiation pattern, impedance matching, and efficiency. Chip antennas are typically tested in an anechoic chamber, although near-field scanning and network analyzer measurements are also common.

Future Trends and Conclusion

Chip antenna technology continues to advance on several fronts. These include: (1) advancements in materials to improve antenna performance (such as greater thermal stability, for example); (2) further miniaturization of chip antennas owing to alternative slot antenna geometries that allow for integration into smaller form factors with limited space; and (3) the integration of chip antennas with other functionalities—such as RF filters, power amplifiers, and so forth—to improve system performance and reliability.

In conclusion, chip antennas have already enabled some revolutionary engineering in the field of wireless communication systems. Of course, the demand for wireless communication systems will only continue to grow for the foreseeable future. Already, several technologies, such as LTE, require four or more antenna ports for use in MIMO mode. And it would be impossible to meet the convergence requirement of antennas without the use of ultra-miniaturized antenna technologies like chip antennas. These trends make the continued evolution of chip antennas an absolute necessity. 

RESOURCES
Research Nester | www.researchnester.com

SOURCES
“Chip Antenna Market Size & Share, by Product Type”—Research Nester: https://www.researchnester.com/reports/chip-antenna-market/5049

PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • MAY 2024 #406 – Get a PDF of the issue

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Shalini Nagar is a writer with experience in crafting website content, press releases, articles, and blog posts, as well as in conducting research and designing infographics. She currently works as a Junior Content Writer for Research Nester.

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Chip Antennas

by Shalini Nagar time to read: 4 min