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MIMO Antenna Design

Key Takeaways

  • MIMO technology enhances data throughput by enabling simultaneous transmission of multiple data streams, and good MIMO antenna design is crucial for optimizing performance without requiring additional spectrum resources.

  • MIMO antenna design involves various aspects, including array configuration, beamforming techniques, antenna placement, polarization considerations, radiation patterns, diversity gain, isolation techniques, bandwidth support, and simulations.

  • Precise antenna placement is essential to minimize unwanted interference and crosstalk while maximizing the effectiveness of MIMO antenna systems.

Diagram of antenna array beamforming to serve multiple users:

Diagram of antenna array beamforming to serve multiple users: The encoder simultaneously transmits signals across multiple channels through all antennas, adjusting the phase and amplitude of each channel differently. This enables directional data transmission to multiple users operating at various frequencies

Multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) technology enables the simultaneous transmission of several data streams from a sender to a receiver (contrasted by SISO technology). Through good MIMO antenna design, users can exchange multiple data streams within a single frequency channel, boosting data throughput without additional spectrum resources. 

Common MIMO Implementation Methods

Implementation Method




Time-Division Multiplexing (TDM)

Broadcasts data into different channels during specific time intervals. It can be combined with spatial multiplexing for improved performance.

Simplicity of implementation, fixed time slots

Reduced throughput when channels are not utilized simultaneously

Spatial Multiplexing

Utilizes beamforming within subarrays to focus antennas on transmitting/receiving data in specific directions. Can transmit multiple data streams simultaneously.

Enhanced throughput, directional communication

Complexity of beamforming, requires multiple antennas

Frequency-Division Multiplexing (FDM)

Broadcasts multiple data streams over different frequencies in a communication channel.

Effective for broadcasting different information

Demultiplexing and filtering required for signal extraction

MIMO Antenna Design

The initial step in MIMO design is to configure the antennas, with common choices being linear, circular, and planar arrays. The array can take on two distinct forms: uniform or non-uniform. In a uniform array, the antenna elements are uniformly spaced, while a non-uniform array allows for adjustable spacing to fine-tune performance and optimization.

Antenna Beamforming

Beamforming techniques can take on various forms, which include digital, analog, or hybrid approaches. 

Three Beamforming Techniques

Analog Beamforming

Analog beamforming adheres to the conventional phased array configuration, utilizing phase-shifting transceivers to manipulate signals.

Digital Beamforming

Digital beamforming streamlines the layout and routing complexities on the PCB by handling signal manipulation digitally.

Hybrid Beamforming

A hybrid approach combines analog and digital techniques, allowing for a combination of analog broadcasting and digital pre-coding. This hybridization reduces the computational load and simplifies the PCB layout.

Antenna Placement

A critical consideration within MIMO antenna design is the placement of antennas within the configuration. The optimal placement depends on various factors, including the PCB stackup, component selection and placement, grounding strategy, and routing considerations. In most cases, antennas are strategically positioned at the board's edge to maximize separation from digital components. This physical separation helps minimize interference and crosstalk between the antenna and digital elements. In some scenarios, especially in complex designs, a portion of the digital circuitry may be allocated to a separate board to further isolate it from the antenna.

MIMO Antenna Crosstalk

Improper antenna placement can lead to unwanted crosstalk issues. Crosstalk can occur when the antenna transmits signals that inadvertently interfere with nearby digital channels. This interference can disrupt signal quality and result in various issues, including increased jitter and elevated noise levels, ultimately leading to higher bit error rates. 

While concerns tend to revolve around digital crosstalk into analog channels, the reverse situation can also occur. A common example is the introduction of switching regulator noise into digital channels, affecting signal integrity. In practical MIMO antenna designs, precise placement and careful consideration of these factors are essential to ensure optimal performance and minimize unwanted interference and crosstalk.

Antenna Polarization in MIMO Systems

The use of different polarizations (vertical, horizontal, slant, etc.) can help to further decrease the correlation between antennas. Dual-polarized antennas can effectively double the number of channels in a given space, which is particularly beneficial for system capacity.

Circular Polarization

Circularly Polarized (CP) MIMO antennas are used more in wireless systems, from satellite and mobile communications to global navigation. Unlike their linearly polarized counterparts, CP antennas are less susceptible to polarization mismatch losses, making them exceptionally beneficial for long-distance and satellite communications where signal integrity is paramount.

Enhancing CP Mechanisms

The heart of circular polarization lies in the intricate manipulation of current distributions and phase shifts. For instance, in one design, current density peaks along one direction in the y-axis, and opposing current directions on the radiating patches create left-hand circular polarization (LHCP). By altering the phase, right-hand circular polarization (RHCP) is achieved. This dual capability allows the antenna to efficiently manage polarization diversity, which is crucial for robust wireless links.

Radiation Pattern and Diversity Gain

Antenna elements should have an omnidirectional or directive radiation pattern depending on the application. In a mobile device, omnidirectional patterns are usually preferred for uniform coverage. The design should also optimize diversity gain, which is achieved by having uncorrelated or minimally correlated signals at the receiver.

Broadband and Isolation Techniques

There are various ways to cater to the demand for wider bandwidths and reduced interference, such as truncating corners of patch antennas and employing dielectric resonator antennas (DRAs) with optimized coupling slots. 

Element Spacing

A critical design parameter is the spacing between antenna elements. It should be at least half the wavelength (λ/2) of the signal to reduce mutual coupling and correlation between the antennas. However, achieving this spacing in compact devices can be challenging, and designers often resort to decoupling and matching techniques to minimize the adverse effects of element coupling.

Antenna Isolation

Ensuring sufficient isolation between antenna elements is crucial to reduce channel correlation and improve MIMO performance. Techniques such as using electromagnetic band-gap (EBG) structures, parasitic elements, or absorptive materials can enhance isolation.

Bandwidth Considerations

MIMO antenna design should support the bandwidth required by the communication standard. This can be achieved by designing wideband or multiband antennas. Wideband antennas are often designed using techniques like the use of fractal shapes or by incorporating reactive loading. Multiband performance can be achieved through the use of separate radiating elements for each band or using tunable materials that can change resonant frequency.

Simulation and Prototyping with Cadence AWR Software

Simulations using software like Cadence’s AWR Software are crucial in the initial stages of MIMO antenna design to predict performance and optimize the design before prototyping. Once a simulation is satisfactory, prototyping can be carried out, followed by testing in an anechoic chamber to measure parameters such as S-parameters, radiation patterns, and gain. Cadence’s AWR Software empowers engineers to create high-performance antenna systems with confidence and efficiency.

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