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How long does an Antenna have to be?

Date:2018/9/27 12:10:36 Hits:

Most modern transistor radios have at least two antennas. One of them is a long, shiny telescopic rod that pulls out from the case and swivels around for picking up FM (frequency modulation) signals. The other is an antenna inside the case, usually fixed to the main circuit board, and it picks up AM (amplitude modulation) signals. (If you're not sure about the difference between FM and AM, refer to our radio article.)

Why do you need two antennas in a radio? The signals on these different wave bands are carried by radio waves of different frequency and wavelength. Typical AM radio signals have a frequency of 1000 kHz (kilohertz), while typical FM signals are about 100 MHz (megahertz)—so they vibrate about a hundred times faster. Since all radio waves travel at the same speed (the speed of light, which is 300,000 km/s or 186,000 miles per second), AM signals have wavelengths about a hundred times bigger than FM signals. You need two antennas because a single antenna can't pick up such a hugely different range of wavelengths. It's the wavelength (or frequency, if you prefer) of the radio waves you're trying to detect that determines the size and type of the antenna you need to use. Broadly speaking, the length of a simple (rod-type) antenna has to be about half the wavelength of the radio waves you're trying to receive.

The length of the antenna isn't the only thing that affects the wavelengths you're going to pick up; if it were, a radio with a fixed length of antenna would only ever be able to receive one station. The antenna feeds signals into a tuning circuit inside a radio receiver, which is designed to "latch onto" one particular frequency and ignore the rest. The very simplest receiver circuit (like the one you'll find in a crystal radio) is nothing more than a coil of wire, a diode, and a capacitor, and it feeds sounds into an earpiece. The circuit responds (technically, resonates, which means electrically oscillates) at the frequency you're tuned into and discards frequencies higher or lower than this. By adjusting the value of the capacitor, you change the resonant frequency—which tunes your radio to a different station. The antenna's job is to pick up enough energy from passing radio waves to make the circuit resonate at just the right frequency.

Here are some antennas for your reference:

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