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Received February 5, 2019, accepted February 22, 2019, date of publication February 28, 2019, date of current version

March 20, 2019.

Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/ACCESS.2019.2902365

Pulse Characteristics of a Direct Antenna

Modulation Transmitter
AND JACOB J. ADAMS 2 , (Senior Member, IEEE)
1 Department of Electrical Engineering, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 95053, USA
2 Antennas and Electromagnetics Laboratory, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
Corresponding author: Kurt Schab (kschab@scu.edu)
This work was supported by the DARPA under Grant D16AP00033. The work of K. Schab was supported by the Intelligence Community
Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program.

ABSTRACT Direct antenna modulation (DAM) methods using time-varying matching networks offer the
possibility to reduce the detrimental effects on broadband signal transmission from a narrowband antenna.
We propose time- and frequency-domain models for the effects of a DAM scheme for the transmission of
ON–OFF-keyed RF signals and test the validity of the proposed models through over-the-air measurements at
27.12 MHz. Random bit sequences are transmitted separately using both a switched-mode DAM transmitter
and a conventional transmitter and received in the far field. Comparison of measured data with our frequency-
domain models shows that the DAM transmission method partially removes the effects of narrowband
filtering due to the transmit antenna. Models and measurements also demonstrate that the removal of this
filter improves the signal quality as observed in eye diagrams of the demodulated received signals. Finally,
a simple time-domain model of the DAM transmitter is shown to predict the radiated transient signal under
varying synchronization conditions.

INDEX TERMS Antenna measurements, electrically small antennas, narrowband antennas, time varying

I. INTRODUCTION In fact, techniques for circumventing the conventional

The performance of an antenna having dimensions much bandwidth limitations of electrically small antennas using
smaller than its operating wavelength is limited by sev- time-varying matching networks (i.e., direct antenna modu-
eral well-known bounds. Perhaps most referenced is Chu’s lation, DAM) were first proposed for use in the VLF regime
limit on Q-factor (Q or quality factor), which implies that in the 1950s-1970s [3]–[8]. More recently, these have been
small antennas are constrained by a lower bound on Q-factor studied using modern numerical techniques [9]–[12] and
that rises with decreasing electrical size [1]. Because of the implemented at radio frequencies using solid-state switching
inverse relationship between fractional impedance bandwidth devices [9], [10]. While the aforementioned approaches focus
and Q-factor [2], this lower bound on Q-factor has often been on manipulating the oscillations of a resonant narrowband
interpreted as an upper bound on impedance bandwidth for a system, other techniques employ switched DC excitations for
particular electrical size. the direct impression of signals at the terminals of an antenna
However, the relation between Q-factor and bandwidth [13], [14]. Note that, in contrast with the methods described
assumes that the antenna and matching network consists in [15]–[17], all of the aforementioned schemes for DAM
of linear time-invariant (LTI) components, and there is no require synchronization of time-varying elements relative to
immediate reason to suspect its applicability to systems that the RF carrier cycle in order to manipulate energy storage
are non-linear or time-varying. This implies that electri- and radiation. As such, we refer to these schemes as energy-
cally small antennas, while obeying all standard notions of synchronous DAM.
energy conservation and bounds on Q-factor, may not have The purpose of this paper is to propose time- and
strictly bounded effective transmit or receive bandwidths frequency-domain models for an energy-synchronous DAM
when interfaced with non-LTI components (e.g., switches, technique used to transmit broadband on-off-keyed (OOK)
dynamic tuners). signals from an electrically small monopole antenna and to
compare these models to measured far fields produced by a
The associate editor coordinating the review of this manuscript and DAM transmitter. Robust models are essential to predict the
approving it for publication was Yejun He. potential performance of an OOK-DAM transmitter and to
2019 IEEE. Translations and content mining are permitted for academic research only.
VOLUME 7, 2019 Personal use is also permitted, but republication/redistribution requires IEEE permission. 30213
See http://www.ieee.org/publications_standards/publications/rights/index.html for more information.
K. Schab et al.: Pulse Characteristics of a DAM Transmitter

provide insight into the non-ideal factors that drive engineer-

ing requirements. However, prior studies on OOK-DAM lack
systematic and detailed comparisons between measured far-
field data and theoretical models. In this work, we measure
radiated bit sequences transmitted using DAM and compare
their spectral and time domain signal characteristics to those
predicted by simple models. Furthermore, we directly com-
pare these to signals produced by the same antenna operated
in its conventional (passive or non-switched) mode to assess
the resulting differences in measured and modeled signal
The direct modulation technique under study is briefly
described in Sec. II. In Sec. III, we propose a system block
frequency-domain model to test the ability of DAM to elim-
inate the impedance mismatch effects of the narrowband
transmit antenna. In Sec. IV a time-domain model is used to
study the effects of varying switch timing and other non-ideal
switching effects. Finally, these models are tested experimen-
tally using an over-the-air communications link in Sec. V.


This work focuses on the analysis of an energy-synchronous FIGURE 1. On-off-keying scheme using direct antenna modulation
(following [4]). A small dipole is modeled by an RC network and driven
DAM scheme for transmitting broadband OOK signals using a switched matching network (top). Antenna terminal current ia and
using electrically small dipole antennas, originally pro- voltage va are depicted under ideal synchronization (middle) as well as
the approximate radiated field Eff (bottom).
posed in [4]. Here, we simply denote this scheme as DAM
OOK and provide a brief explanation of the concept. In
principle, this approach is applicable to any electrically
small antenna that presents an open-circuit input impedance the switch is closed at the instant the driving source voltage is
at DC. maximum, the initial conditions match the steady state oscil-
The schematic in Figure 1 shows a variation of the original lation conditions and the antenna instantaneously ‘‘resumes’’
circuit used in [4], where a small dipole antenna (represented oscillating as though at it had been in steady state oscillation
by an RC circuit) is tuned to resonance at frequency fc by an for all time. Similarly, if the switch is opened again when the
inductor Lm . While this model is ideal in several ways (ideal antenna terminal voltage va takes on the maximal value of V0 ,
switch, inductor and simple RC antenna model), we use it energy is trapped on the antenna and the system state becomes
here to explain the underlying DAM concept. exactly that of times t < 0. The source may be turned off
In the case of a conventional transmitter configuration, while the switch is open or an asymmetric absorbing switch
an OOK modulated source would be attached to the tuned, may be used to prevent damage to the generator caused by
narrowband antenna with the switched placed permanently reflection.
in the ON position. The narrow bandwidth of the antenna Assuming short-dipole behavior, the antenna termi-
naturally results in distortion of the transmitted signal. For nal current ia is linearly related to an equiphase cur-
the DAM transmitter configuration, the tuned antenna is rent over the antenna which generates a radiated field
connected to an OOK modulated or continuous-wave (CW) Eff ∼ F(θ, φ)∂ia /∂t [18], also shown in Figure 1. Here
source and the switch is used to generate the modulation F(θ, φ) is a spatial term depending only on the dipole’s
sequence by controlling the storage and release of energy in orientation. Second-order transient effects manifest in more
the antenna as described below. complex models of small radiators [11]–[13], however these
Suppose that for times t < 0, the switch is open and transients are specific to an antenna’s geometry, are rela-
the antenna terminals are charged with a DC voltage V0 tively low amplitude, and typically occur at frequencies much
matching the steady-state amplitude of the voltage across the higher than the tuned carrier frequency. As such, we do not
antenna terminals when driven at frequency fc . Because the treat these transients here.
switch is open at times t < 0, the antenna terminal current, In the above description we have explicitly required proper
ia is zero. These conditions imply that the stored energy on synchronization of the carrier frequency and switch actu-
the antenna’s capacitance is CV02 /2 and the energy in the ation. For this OOK scheme, the ideal switching instant
inductor is zero. These energy states precisely match those always coincides with the peak antenna terminal voltage va .
of the system when driven at resonance during the instant Deviation from this ideal condition can be described by the
in the cycle when the antenna terminal voltage is maximum, time τ , as drawn in Fig. 2. Desynchronization of this kind is
assuming high Q-factor. If, as shown in Figure 1 at time t = 0, studied in detail in Sec. IV.

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K. Schab et al.: Pulse Characteristics of a DAM Transmitter

measurements while using the model of the conventional

transmitter in (1) as an experimental control.


The frequency-domain model in (2) assumes the ideal switch
behavior and control synchronization described in Sec. II.
If these conditions are not met, the total bypassing of the
transmitter mismatch filter Htx = 1 − Γtx is not possible.
Deviations from the ideal case thus imply that the system can
no longer be represented by an equivalent transfer function
and must be studied directly in the time domain. In this
FIGURE 2. Desynchronization time τ as the difference between the ideal
section, we derive a time-domain expression for the radiated
switching instant (tideal , peak antenna voltage va ) and a non-ideal, waveform under imperfect synchronization in order to assess
desynchronized switch time tdesynch . how desynchronization impacts DAM transmissions.
The method shown in Fig. 1 relies on precise switch
control to store energy on the antenna during non-radiating
III. FREQUENCY-DOMAIN MODEL states to facilitate fast transitions to the radiating state with-
The direct modulation technique described in [4], [9], out the characteristic rise time observed in a conventional
[11], [19], and [20] implies that an electrically small narrowband transmitter. The following analysis denotes the
antenna’s narrowband filtering due to impedance mis- desynchronization time τ (see Fig. 2) in terms of the relative
match can be effectively removed, i.e., DAM OOK phase of the carrier at the switching instant φ = 2π fc τ .
allows for broadband signals to be directly impressed As the switching phase progresses from ideal (φ = 0◦ -
at a transmitting antenna’s terminals through time- when maximum voltage appears at the antenna terminals),
varying impedance modulation. To study this effect, to worst-case (φ = ±90◦ - when zero voltage appears at
we isolate the filtering behavior of receiving and transmit- the antenna terminals), a diminishing amount of energy is
ting antennas’ impedance mismatch responses via a transfer retained by the antenna during OFF symbols. This results
function relating the voltage Vtx at the transmitting generator in the need to partially recharge the system and realign it
to the voltage Vrx appearing on a receiver load. In terms of to the source during each radiating symbol. Note that while
antenna effective heights h, antenna reflection coefficients Γ , desynchronization affects the rise time and amplitude of the
and propagation tensor P, this transfer function for a conven- radiated field, the fall time of the transmitted pulse remains
tional link is [21] abrupt regardless of switch timing [17].
If the simple RC model of a short dipole antenna in Fig. 1
jη0 βhrx · P · htx
Vrx = (1 − Γrx ) (1 − Γtx )Vtx is adopted, the form of a desynchronized radiated pulse can
4R0 be written analytically as
= (Hrx Hch Htx ) Vtx . (1)
Eff (t) = b cos φ cos(2π fc t + φ)e−α(t−t0 )
Here, β is the free space wavenumber, η0 is the impedance h i
+ cos(2π fc t) 1 − e−α(t−t0 ) , t ∈ t0 , t0 + Tsym
of free space, R0 is the generator impedance, and the ten-
sor P contains all propagation effects, reducing to the scalar (3)
P0 e−jβR /4π R for free-space links. Having decomposed the
where the steady state (t → ∞) value is normalized to unity,
transfer function into components that depend only on the
the pulse begins at time t = t0 , and α ∼ Q−1 is a time
mismatch between the antennas and their feeds (Htx = 1−Γtx
constant depending on the antenna’s loaded Q-factor. The
and Hrx = 1 − Γrx ), we collect all propagation and radiation
factor b ∈ [0, 1] models non-idealities that may result in the
pattern effects into a third term Hch . Should the above relation
incomplete energy capture and release when moving between
be cast in terms of power transfer, the usual forms of (1−|Γ |2 )
states. This effect is independent of switch control synchro-
nization and is due to several factors including finite transi-
If DAM OOK performs as proposed in [4], [9], [11], [19],
tion times between a switch’s high and low impedance states
and [20], then the transmit antenna’s impedance mismatch
and non-linear behavior of the switch under high voltages.
filter is eliminated using an ideal DAM transmitter. Thus,
Using measurements in Sec. V, we estimate the parameter b
we can propose a modified model for the received signal
and test the ability of (3) to predict radiated fields on RF
VrxDAM ≈ Hch Hrx Vtx . (2) timescales.

The expression in (2) provides a physically-motivated, V. EXPERIMENTAL VALIDATION

frequency-domain model for the effect of an ideal DAM Here we report on over-the air measurements conducted
transmitter in a communications link. In Sec. V, we test outdoors on North Carolina State University campus. All
the model for DAM proposed in (2) using over-the-air experiments were conducted in the far field using a carrier

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K. Schab et al.: Pulse Characteristics of a DAM Transmitter

frequency of 27.12 MHz. Data were collected to test the the receiver are recorded using a digital oscilloscope (DPO,
following hypotheses: Tektronix DPO70404C) and a +30 dB low-noise amplifier
1: The relative behavior of a conventional and synchro- (LNA, Minicircuits LNA-530).
nized DAM OOK system is represented by the models The two configurations use identical hardware in their
in (1) and (2), respectively. signal paths. By including the switch in both conventional and
2: The model in (3) accurately predicts the time-domain DAM modes, we mitigate potential biasing of comparison
waveforms produced by a DAM transmitter under vary- results due to resistive broadbanding effects from switch
ing degrees of desynchronization. losses. Efficiency reduction due to the switch is discussed
in Sec. V-E.
A. MEASUREMENT SETUP Data were recorded at varying data rates using both con-
The measurement setup is drawn schematically in Fig. 3. ventional and DAM OOK configurations. In conventional
The transmitting and receiving antennas are wire monopoles mode, the transmitter switch is fixed in the closed position
mechanically supported by freestanding, non-conducting and the AWG produces an OOK modulated 64-bit pseudo-
masts. The antennas are fed at ground level and radials random bit sequence (PRBS). In DAM OOK mode the AWG
are used to reduce ground losses. The transmit antenna outputs a CW signal with the same voltage level and controls
measures 0.09λ (0.94 m) tall and is tuned to resonance the switch according to the scheme described in Section II.
at 27.12 MHz using a series inductance of approximately In both modes of operation, a startup time of many ‘‘1’’
1600 nH. A CMOS-based reflective switch (Analog Devices bits is used to charge the system to steady state before the
ADG902) is used to implement DAM OOK. A 3 : 1 trans- bit sequence begins. Likewise, a cooldown sequence of ‘‘0’’
former is used to match the tuned antenna to an arbitrary bits is used to fully discharge the system between sequence
waveform generator (AWG, Tektronix AWG70002A). To repetitions.
facilitate synchronization control, we configure the AWG to Along with measured antenna impedances and the model
produce both RF and baseband switch control signals. in (1), a channel sounding sequence is used to obtain an
estimate of the channel Hch . The sounding signal consists
of a linear chirp spanning a symmetric fractional bandwidth
of 75% around the carrier frequency, large enough to con-
tain the broadband signals used in the experiments. Each
measurement consists of transmitting and recording 50 rep-
etitions of both chirp and data sequences. No averaging
is used during data collection. Parsing and averaging of
the repeated sequences is used to raise signal-to-noise ratio
in post-processing. Independent GPS-disciplined oscillators
supply synchronized triggering and clock references to the
transmitter and receiver.

The time-domain data are parsed and averaged before esti-
mating the channel Hch and applying any RF or baseband pro-
cessing. Measured data were coherently demodulated numer-
ically and processed using the block diagram in Figure 4 to
produce the in-phase envelope yi . The initial bandpass filter is
centered at the carrier frequency and has a rectangular profile
in frequency with fractional bandwidth of 75%. Final low-
pass filtering is carried out using a rectangular profile filter
with a fractional bandwidth of 75% relative to the carrier fre-
quency. The width of both filters is set to retain components
of the signal within the spectral width of the channel sounding

FIGURE 3. Schematic diagram of over-the-air experiment and measured

transmitter and receiver reflection coefficient, as represented by S11 .

The receiving antenna measures 0.22λ (2.43 m) tall and is

well matched at the selected carrier frequency. The reflection
coefficient Γ and −10 dB fractional bandwidth FBW−10 dB FIGURE 4. I/Q demodulation chain used to extract in-phase envelope yi
of both antennas are shown in Fig. 3. Time-domain signals at from a measured or modeled signal Vrx .

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C. EXPERIMENT 1: REMOVAL OF TX FILTER VIA DAM OOK it more prone to noise-induced errors. Note that we do not
Sequences of OOK signals were transmitted at three data quantify specific performance metrics here such as rise and
rates characterized by the number of carrier cycles N per fall time, bit error rate, etc. as these are heavily influenced by
symbol. The values of N = 10, 5, 3 correspond to nominal the receiver design, which is beyond the scope of the present
fractional bandwidths B = 20%, 40%, 66%, respectively. study.
For each measurement, the channel Hch was estimated using Comparison of measured and modeled data in DAM mode
the channel sounding sequence and modeled signals were show general agreement, with much more open eye diagrams
calculated according to (1) or (2), depending on the mode at all data rates. One noticeable difference between the DAM
of operation. For clearer interpretation, both modeled and model and measurements is the asymmetric rise and fall times
measured data are presented after channel inversion (i.e., mul- in the measured data. This is attributed to imperfect switch
−1 transition characteristics reducing the ability of the system to
tiplication by Hch ). To avoid amplification of noise near the
edges of the receiving antenna’s bandwidth, the filter Hrx is store energy between each pulse. From Fig. 6, we estimate the
not removed in this way. Proper synchronization for the DAM switch factor in (3) as b = 0.65 from the relative immediate
switching control is established experimentally. height of rising edges.
Figure 5 shows the RF spectra of measured (light orange) The data in Fig. 6 are obtained by averaging the 50 mea-
and modeled (dark purple) data for conventional (Conv.) and sured repetitions of a single transmission. The mean data for
DAM modes. No normalization is applied. Bars display the the N = 3 case is shown again as a solid line in Fig. 7 as a
99% power bandwidth (occupied bandwidth) of each spec- function of time (note this trace is identical to the measured
trum. The bandwidth of the conventional system is limited data in the N = 3 column of Fig. 6, only not collapsed into
by the transmit antenna’s frequency response and does not eye diagram format). In Fig. 7 we also plot a shaded region
increase significantly with increasing data rate. Conversely, illustrating the interval of width 2σ (t), where σ (t) is the stan-
the bandwidth of the DAM transmission does expand as dard deviation of the 50 measured trials at each time sample.
the bandwidth of the data sequence increases. In all cases,
good agreement is observed between measured and modeled
data, implying that the DAM transmitter effectively removes
the impedance filter of the narrowband transmit antenna as
predicted in (2).

FIGURE 6. Demodulated in-phase envelopes produced from

channel-inverted measured (light orange) and modeled (dark purple)
received signals in conventional (top) and DAM (bottom) modes.

−1 V (ω)| from measured (light orange) and

FIGURE 5. Spectra |Hch rx
modeled (dark purple) received signals in conventional (top) and
DAM (bottom) modes.

The measured data and models in (1) and (2) were

also studied in the time-domain to assess their compara-
tive signal characteristics. Figure 6 contains demodulated
data from measurement and models in eye-diagram format.
As in Fig. 5, no normalization is used. As an experimental
control, the measured and modeled data in the conventional
mode of operation show excellent agreement, with character-
istic rise and fall times that partially or completely close the
eye as the data rate is increased (N is decreased). Depending
on specific demodulation and decision parameters, this high
FIGURE 7. Mean (solid line) and uncertainty (shaded region, width equal
level of intersymbol interference may hinder the communi- to two standard deviations σ ) of measured N = 3 signals after
cations performance of the conventional transmitter, making demodulation.

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The function σ (t) is nearly constant and identical between inclusion of the DAM circuitry lowers the transmitter effi-
the conventional and DAM measurements, suggesting that ciency by a multiplicative factor of 0.81, i.e., a reduction in
the noise is an ergodic process. This analysis supports the gain of 0.91 dB. This drop in efficiency corresponds to an
claim that the differences observed in Figs. 5 and 6 are due increase in conventional impedance bandwidth by a factor
to deterministic changes in the way the transmitting antenna of 1.23. While bandwidth in a conventional system can con-
produces a radiated field and are not generated by chance due tinue to be increased via resistive loading, it comes at the cost
to a random process. of lower efficiency and system gain. The use of DAM presents
an alternative scheme wherein a fixed cost in efficiency
D. EXPERIMENT 2: DESYNCHRONIZATION MODEL incurred from the switching elements allows for significant
To test the validity of the time-domain desynchronization improvements in effective bandwidth. Because the concept of
model in (3), measured RF waveforms are studied under impedance bandwidth is not well-defined when using time-
varying degrees of desynchronization. As in the previous varying matching networks, the effective bandwidths of a
experiment, channel inversion is applied to the measured data. conventional and DAM transmitter must be examined at the
Corresponding model data is generated according to (3) along signal level.
with convolution with the measured receive filter Hrx . The
switch factor b = 0.65 is used according to estimates made VI. CONCLUSIONS
from the rising edge of symbols in Fig. 6. Modeled and mea- Time- and frequency-domain models for a direct antenna
sured RF waveforms are plotted in Fig. 8 showing excellent modulation (DAM) scheme for on-off-keying are formulated
agreement. In all cases, the DAM waveforms exhibit much and validated through physical measurements. A conven-
shorter fall times than the conventional system. The rise times tional transmitter and its corresponding model are used as
vary with synchronization φ, with a fast rise to 65% of the an experimental control. Measured data show good agree-
maximum envelope value with φ = 0◦ and a slow rise time ment with the proposed models for the received spectra and
identical to the conventional system with φ = 90◦ . envelopes of DAM OOK transmissions that assume ideal
switching conditions. However, the measured data show a
longer rise time for the DAM OOK transmissions than the
model due to non-ideal factors in realization. A separate
model for the time-domain behavior of the DAM OOK sys-
tem under desynchronized operating conditions accurately
predicts measured data at the RF level.
The models presented here improve the understanding of
the energy synchronous DAM OOK scheme and provide
concrete comparisons to conventional transmitters for the
assessment and experimental validation of this scheme. Sim-
ilar models may be developed and applied to other forms of
direct antenna modulation.

FIGURE 8. Measured RF waveforms in conventional and DAM modes for

varying degrees of desynchronization phase φ. Modeled results with ACKNOWLEDGMENT
switch factor b = 0.65 are overlaid with measured results for four bits All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed are those
(‘‘0110’’) near tfc /N = 20. For consistent comparison, the measured
results are channel inverted and the modeled results are passed through of the author and do not reflect the official positions or views
the measured receive filter Hrx . of the Intelligence Community or any other U.S. Government
agency. Nothing in the contents should be construed as
In addition to validating the time-domain model in (3), asserting or implying U.S. Government authentication of
these results demonstrate the effect of desynchronization information or Intelligence Community endorsement of the
within a realized DAM system. Interestingly, the degrada- author’s views. Approved for public release; distribution is
tion of rise time is slow with respect to increasing desyn- unlimited.
chronization, owing to its cos φ dependence. This suggests
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pp. 483–486. electrically small and reconfigurable antennas, characteristic mode theory,
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mitter with a switched electrically small antenna,’’ in Proc. Int. Workshop Dr. Adams is a member of Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu. He has
Antenna Technol. (iWAT), 2010, pp. 1–4. received several national awards, including the DARPA Young Faculty
[21] D. Lamensdorf and L. Susman, ‘‘Baseband-pulse-antenna techniques,’’ Award, the U.S. Army Research Office Young Investigator Award, and the
IEEE Antennas Propag. Mag., vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 20–30, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.
Feb. 1994.

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