Archivo de la etiqueta: Finite Elements

Simulating transitions with waveguides

adapterWaveguides are transmission lines widely used in very high frequency applications as guided propagation devices. Their main advantages are the reduction of losses in the propagation, due to the use of a single conductor and air, instead of using dielectrics as in the coaxial cable, a greater capacity to use high power and a simple building. Their main drawbacks are usually that they are bulky devices, that they cannot operate below their cutoff frequency and that the guide transitions to other technologies (such as coaxial or microstrip) have often losses. However, finite element method (FEM) simulation allows us to study and optimize the transitions that can be built with these devices, getting very good results. In this post we will study the waveguides using an FEM simulator such as HFSS, which is able to analyze tridimensional electromagnetic fields (3D simulation).

Waveguides are very popular in very high frequency circuits, due to the ease of their building and their low losses. The propagated fields, unlike the coaxial guides, are electric or magnetic transverse (TE or TM fields), so they have a magnetic field component (TE) or electric field (TM) in the propagation direction. These fields are the solutions for the Helmholtz equation under certain boundary conditions

  • For the TE modes, Ez(x,y)=0

\left( \dfrac {{\partial}^2}{\partial x^2} +\dfrac {{\partial}^2}{\partial y^2} +k_c^2\right)H_z(x,y)=0

  • For the TM modes, Hz(x,y)=0

\left( \dfrac {{\partial}^2}{\partial x^2} +\dfrac {{\partial}^2}{\partial y^2} +k_c^2\right)E_z(x,y)=0

and solving these differential equations by separation of variables, and applying the boundary conditions of a rectangular enclosure, where all the walls are electrical walls (conductors, in which the tangential component of the electric field is canceled)

Fig. 2 – Boundary conditions on a rectangular waveguide

we can obtain a set of solutions for the electromagnetic field inside the guide, starting from the solution obtained for the expressions shown in fig. 1.

Fig. 3 – Table of electromagnetic fields and parameters in rectangular waveguides

Therefore, electromagnetic fields are propagated like propagation modes, called TEmn, for the transverse electric (Ez=0), or TMmn, for the transverse magnetic (Hz=0). From the propagation constant Kc is got an expression for the cutoff frequencyfc, which is the lowest frequency for propagating fields inside the waveguide, which expression is

f_c=\dfrac {c}{2} \sqrt {\left( \dfrac {m}{a} \right) ^2+\left( \dfrac {n}{b} \right) ^2}

The lowest mode is when m=0, since although the function has extremes for m,n=0, the modes TE00 or TM00 do not exist. And like a>b, the lowest cutoff frequency of the waveguide is for the mode TE10. That is the mode we are going to analyze using a 3D FEM simulation.


In a 3D simulator it is very easy to model a rectangular waveguide, since it is enough to draw a rectangular prism with the appropriate dimensions a and b. In this case, a=3,10mm and b=1,55mm. The TE10 mode start to propagate at 48GHz the next mode, TE01, at 97GHz, then the waveguide is analyzed at 76GHz, frequency in which it will work. Drawing the waveguide in HFSS, it is shown so

Fig. 5 – Rectangular waveguide. HFSS model

The inner rectangular prism is assigned to vacuum, and the side faces are assigned perfect E boundaries. Two wave ports are assigned on the rectangles at -z/2 and +z/2 , using the first propagation mode. The next figure shows the E-field along the waveguide

Fig. 6 – Electric field inside the waveguide

Analyzing the Scattering parameters from 40 to 90GHz, it is got

Fig. 7 – S parameters for the rectangular waveguide

where it can be seen that the first mode starts to propagate inside the waveguide at 48,5GHz.

From 97GHz, TE01 mode could be propagated too, it does not interest us, then the analysis is done at 76GHz.


The most common transitions are from waveguide to coaxial, or from waveguide to microstrip line, to be able to use the propagated energy in another kind of applications. For this, a probe is placed in the direction of the E-field, coupling its energy on the probe. (TE01 mode is in Y-axis)

Fig. 8 – Probe location

The probe is a quarter wavelength resonant antenna at the desired frequency. In X-axis, E-field maximum value happens at x=a/2, while to find the maximum in Z-axis, the guide is finished in a short circuit. So, E-field is null on the guide wall, being maximum at a quarter guide wavelength which is

{\lambda_g}=\dfrac {\lambda}{\sqrt {1-\left( \dfrac {f_c}{f} \right)^2}}

and in our case, at 76GHz, λ is 3,95mm and λg, 5,11mm. Then, the probe length will be 0,99mm and the shortcircuit distance, 2,56mm.

In coaxial transitions, it is enough to put a coax whose internal conductor protrude λ/4 at λg/4 from the shortcircuit. But in microstrip transitions dielectrics are used as support of the conductor lines, then it should be kept in mindpor the dielectric effect, too.

Our transition can be modeled in HFSS by assigning different materials. The probe is built on Rogers RO3003 substrate, with low dielectric constant and losses, making the transition to microstrip. The lateral faces and the lines are assigned to perfect E boundaries, and form of the substrate, to a RO3003 material. The waveguide inside and the transition cavity is assigned to vacuum. In the extreme face of the transition, a wave port is assigned.

Fig. 10 – Rectangular waveguide to microstrip transition

Now, the simulation is done analyzing the fields and S parameters.

Fig. 11 – E-field on the transition

and it can be seen how the E-field couples to the probe and the signal is propagated along the microstrip.

Fig. 12 – Transition S parameters

Seeing the S parameters, we can see that the least loss coupling happens at 76÷78GHz, our working frequency.


Among the usual waveguide devices, one of the most popular is the Magic Tee, a special combiner which can be used like a divider, a combiner and a signal adder/subtractor.

Fig. 13 – Magic Tee

Its behavior is very simple: when an EM field is fed by port 2, the signal is divided and in phase by ports 1 and 3. Port 4 is isolated because its E-plane is perpendicular to the port 2 E-plane. But if the EM field is fed by port 4, it is divided into ports 1 and 3 in phase opposition (180deg) while port 2 is now isolated.

Using the FEM simulation to analyze the Magic Tee, and feeding the power through port 2, it is got the next response

Fig. 14 – E-field inside the Magic Tee feeding by the port 2.

and the power is splitted in ports 1 and 3 while port 4 is isolated. Doing the same operation from port 4, it is got

Fig. 15 – E-field inside the Magic Tee feeding by the port 4.

where now port 2 is isolated.

To see the phases, it is used a vector plot of the E-field

Fig. 16 – Vector E-field inside the Magic Tee feeding by the port 2

where it is seen that the field in ports 1 and 3 has the same direction and therefore they are in phase. Feeding from port 4

Fig. 17 – Vector E-field inside the Magic Tee feeding by the port 2

in which it is seen that the signals in port 1 and 3 has the same level, but in phase opposition (180deg between them).

FEM simulation allows us to analyze the behavior of the EM field from different points of view, only changing the excitations. For example, feeding a signal in phase by port 2 and 4, both signals will be added in phase at port3 and will be nulled at port 1.

Fig. 18 – E-field inside the feeding by ports 2 and 4 in phase.

whereas if inverting the phase in port 2 or port 4, the signals will be added at port 1 and will be nulled at port 3.

Fig. 19 – E-field inside the feeding by ports 2 and 4 in phase opposition

and the result is a signal adder/subtractor.


The object of this post was the analysis of the electrical behavior of the waveguides using a 3D FEM simulator. The advantage of using these simulators is that they allow to analyze with good precision the EM fields on three-dimensional structures, being the modeling the most important part to rightly define the structure to be studied, since a 3D simulator requires meshing in the structure, and this meshing, as it needs a high number of tetrahedra to achieve good convergence, also tends to need more machine memory and processing capacity.
The structures analyzed, due to their simplicity, have not required long simulation time and relevant processing capacity, but as the models become more complex, the processing capacity increases, it it is needed to achieve a good accuracy.

In subsequent posts, another methods to reduce modeling in complex structures will be analyzed, through the use of planes of symmetry that allow us to divide the structure and reduce meshing considerably..


  1. Daniel G. Swanson, Jr.,Wolfgang J. R. Hoefer; “Microwave Circuit Modeling Using Electromagnetic Field Simulation”; Artech House, 2003, ISBN 1-58053-308-6
  2. Paul Wade, “Rectangular Waveguide to Coax Transition Design”, QEX, Nov/Dec 2006