Investigation of wave propagation and antenna radiation in forested environments
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Recently, there is emerging interests in deploying wireless sensor networks in forests for applications such as forest fire detection, environmental monitoring and remote surveillance. One challenge in the design of such networks is to ensure reliable communication between sensors located near the ground and over short distances. However, the propagation mechanisms in this type of scenario are complex and not well understood. Furthermore, the design of antennas that can exploit the resulting propagation mechanisms for optimal power transfer remains an open question. The objective of this dissertation is to understand wave propagation and antenna radiation in forested environments in the HF/VHF frequency range. To achieve this objective, several forest scaled models are introduced. The first scaled forest model is a periodic metal cut-wire array. The transmission data inside the cut-wire array are simulated and measured. The propagation mechanisms inside the array are extracted. Several interesting propagation phenomena associated with surface waves and leaky waves are observed and explained. Next, a dielectric rod array consisting of water-filled straws is investigated as a more realistic forest model. Water is chosen since its dielectric constant in the microwave range is close to that of tree trunks in the HF/VHF frequencies. The propagation mechanisms in the water rod array are investigated through scaled model measurements in the laboratory, numerical simulations and an effective medium theory. Randomization effects due to rod spacing and rod height on the propagation mechanisms are also studied. Finally, the transmission data in a real forest are collected in the HF/VHF frequency range to corroborate the findings from the models. The measurement site is located at Bastrop, Texas. For comparison, the transmission data are also measured in an open field. The transmission data are processed and the resulting propagation mechanisms are extracted and compared with the model predictions. As an extension of the propagation study, the potential to achieve directive antenna radiations in a forest is explored. A simple metal cut-wire array environment is considered for ease in modeling. For the case when both the transmit antenna and the receive antenna are embedded inside the array, two design ideas are presented. The first design tries to couple the antenna radiation into the dominant propagation mechanism through phase matching and the second design uses a closely spaced Yagi array to decouple the antenna from its surrounding medium. For the case when the transmit antenna is embedded inside the array and the receive antenna is located outside the array, the leaky wave mechanism is explored to achieve directive radiation. These designs are verified through theoretical predictions, numerical simulations and prototype measurements.