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Design of an Antenna for a Wireless Sensor Network for Trains

An antenna for a wireless sensor network for trains is designed and built. The network will monitor temperature and vibrations of the wheel bearings on the train wagons. Doing this will allow for an earlier detection of damaged wheels, which will ease planning of maintenance and reduce wear on the rails considerably.

The requirement of the system is that it is to be installed without any cables attached to the sensor nodes. This calls for wireless communication, and that for that antennas are needed.A train is a difficult environment to transmit electromagnetic (EM) waves in. It is full of metal and EM-waves cannot pass through a conducting material.

Having much metal in its vicinity also affects the function of the antenna. This needs to be taken into consideration when making the design.The constructed antenna is a small dual-layer patch antenna. Dual layer means that it is constructed out of two sheets known as substrates of isolating material with different characteristics. The lower one of these substrates is made in such a way that integration with a circuit board is possible. Such integration would reduce the production cost considerably.

The antenna is designed for direct placement on a conducting surface. This surface could be part of the train. It uses the surrounding metal as a ground plane in order to reduce its size. The result is a small patch antenna with good radiation qualities in metallic surroundings. The longest side is 18.35 mm, equaling 14.9 % of the wavelength that the antenna is designed for.
Source: Uppsala University
Author: Hinnemo, Malkolm

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