An article written by Tom Lecklider in the October 2005 edition of Evaluation Engineering
World of the Near Field
" presented formulas for three regions of the near field that relate the largest physical
dimension of the radiator to the operational wavelength. A great chart shows the transition area between near field
and far field. There tends to be a lot of opinions (rules of thumb)
about where the transition regions exist.
There was also an article in the February 2001 edition of Conformity entitled, "Near and Far Fields
- From Statics to Radiation" that did a good job of addressing the near field vs. far field issue.
The calculator originally on this page has been removed because of compatibility issues with outdated Microsoft
OWC components. A Near-Field/Far-Field Calculator is included in
RF Cafe Calculator Workbook for FREE.
Per Mr. Lecklider, the field boundaries are as follows:
- For electrically small antennas
(compared to wavelength), the Reactive Near Field
Boundary is given by
- For electrically large
antennas, the Reactive Near Field Boundary is better described by
- For electrically large
antennas, the Radiating Near Field Boundary is given by
AM = 530-1710 kHz
FM = 88-108 MHz
ISM = 902-928 MHz
PCS = 1850-1990 MHz
RFID = 13.56 MHz
GPS = 1575.42 MHz
802.11b/g = 2.40-2.48 MHz
802.11a = 5.15-5.82 MHz
DBS = 12.8-14.5 MHz
This chart plots the near field/far field transition distance for a range of frequencies.
This page was retrieved from the WayBack Machine at archive.org. I have tried to contact the
current owners of the former Conformity magazine for either a page on their website to link to, or for permission
to post it on RF Cafe, but have not been able to get a response. Since it is such an excellent primer on the
near field vs. far field topic, I am posting it here until such time as I am either directed to remove it, or, preferably,
provided a hyperlink on their website.
Near and Far Fields - From Statics to Radiation
February 2001 Conformity
By Isidor Straus and Curtis-Straus LLC
Since we’ve got a focus article on shielding in this issue, it seems timely to review the relationship between
source configuration, operating frequency, measurement distance, and wave impedance. Wave impedance is the ratio
of the electric field magnitude, E, to that of the magnetic field magnitude, H. It characterizes an
electromagnetic field with the same units - ohms -- as the circuit concept impedance does. The ratio of E,
which is in volts per meter, to H, in Amperes per meter, is simply ohms. In shielding, this ratio plays an
important part in the mechanisms of reflection and absorption, which play a key part in EMI/EMC control.
In this article, we’ll show that the wave impedance in free space is determined by two things:
- The physical details of the radiating source-whether it is open ended (dipolar), or closed (current loop),
- and perspective-is the measurement taken from a nearby or distant point, that is, in the near or far field.
For our purposes, circuits that cause fields can be sorted into four basic classes:
3. Electric, time-variant
4. Magnetic, time-variant
The electrostatic class is simply a fixed distribution of charges. Since the charges do not move, no current
flows. A simple familiar (but useful) case is the charge dipole, where two equal and opposite charges are spaced
some distance apart. Another would be one or wires held at some fixed voltage or voltages. Under these conditions,
there is an electric field which does not vary with time (E is constant in time). There is no magnetic field
(H is zero). The concept of wave impedance isn’t useful in electrostatics because the ratio of E to
H is infinite.
For a charge dipole, the electric field falls away as the cube of the distance. The inverse cube law is derived
from the near cancellation of fields by the opposite charges. Each charge has an field which falls off as 1/r2,
but because the charges are of opposite signs, the resulting field falls off more rapidly.
Magnetostatic circuits consist of DC current loops. This is the dual to the electrostatic case. There is a constant
magnetic field H which is time invariant and falls off with the cube of distance, but no electric field (E
is zero). Hence wave impedance isn’t of interest here either - it would be zero. In fact, for both the electrostatic
and magnetostatic cases, wave impedance is meaningless, because there are no waves-nothing is changing, and field
information doesn’t propagate magnetostatic cases, wave impedance is meaningless, because there are no waves-nothing
is changing, and field information doesn’t propagate.
Varying the charges and currents
Once we have variation in either charge or current distribution, we will have changing fields. Maxwell’s equations
tell us that we can’t change an electric field at any point without there being a corresponding change in the magnetic
field, and that information on the change (i. e., changes in the fields at more distant points) will propagate away
at the speed of light in the surrounding medium.
We can reconcile the concept of wave propagation with those of electro- and magnetostatics by looking at the
way electric and magnetic time-variant circuits behave by looking at the way electric and magnetic time-variant
The third class of circuit mentioned above is a time-variant electric circuit. We could start by thinking of
a slowly varying electrostatic circuit. Consider these more or less equivalent cases:
1. a charge dipole where the charges vary sinusoidally
2. a current element where current flows back and forth sinusoidally along a line (charges would build up and
reverse at the ends, so this is equivalent to the previous example)
3. any assemblage of open-ended wires driven by voltage sources, including dipole and whip antennas, as well
as low speed leads exiting circuit boards driven by common mode voltages
A short sinusoidally varying current element is known as a "Hertzian dipole." "Short" means small in comparison
with a wavelength at the drive frequency, so the current is uniform over the wire at any instant. To understand
the relation ship between the charge dipole and the time-varying current element, think of the charges as varying
with time. If each charge at the end of the dipole has the value
, then a current equal to the rate of change of the charge,
A mathematically exact description of the electric and magnetic fields generated by the infinitesimal ertzian
dipole is shown in Fig. 1.
Figure 1: A sinusoidal current element produces large electric fields in the near field because
of the 1/r3 term.
Note the following:
1. Both electric and magnetic fields are present.
2. The electric field contains components which vary as 1/(ßr)3, 1/(ßr)2, and 1/ ßr, where ß = (2π/λ,
and the wavelength λ = (c/f), where c is
the velocity of light and f is the frequency.
3. The magnetic field contains components which vary as 1/(ßr)2, and 1/ ßr.
4. The quantity (ßr) can therefore be rewritten as
It is unity at a distance of ro = λ/2π.
For r<< ro, 1/(ßr) is the dominant term. This is what we call the near field, and is electric.
For r >> ro, 1/ ßr is the dominant term. This is the far field. Note that in the far field, E and
H are related by the characteristic impedance of the medium (120π
or 377 ohms for a vacuum). In the vicinity of ro, there is a transition region where all terms are of
the same order of magnitude.
WWhat does this tell us? For one thing, the terms "slow", "fast", "near" and "far" are all relative. A "slowly"
varying Hertzian dipole is one that we are "near" to in the sense of being much closer than
λ/2π when we measure it. Since wavelength
and frequency are inversely related, low frequencies have long wavelengths and vice-versa.
The dual to the Hertzian dipole is our fourth case, a sinusoidally excited current loop. A current loop is characterized
by its "moment," which is the product of the current it carries times its amplitude. Looking at figure 2, we see
that the electric and magnetic fields for a sinusoidally driven infinitesimal current loop mirror those for the
Hertzian dipole. Here, the near field magnetic field exhibits 1/r3 behavior, while the near-field electric
strength falls off as 1/r2. In the far field, both E and H exhibit 1/r behavior. Their ratio, which is
the wave impedance, is the characteristic impedance of the surrounding medium, just as it is for the Hertzian dipole.
Figure 2: A sinusoidal current loop produces large magnetic fields in the near field. In the
formulae, the term
""dm" stands for the magnetic moment, given by the product of current and loop area.
In the far field, both sources "look" the same. That is, given measuring equipment-antennas and a field strength
meter-we would have no way of knowing whether the electric and magnetic fields we measured were created by a dipolar
or current loop source. This is the situation for measurements taken above 30 MHz for FCC and CISPR measurements.
The dividing line between near and far field at 30 MHz,
λ/2π , is only 1.6 meters. Therefore,
we expect 1/r behavior, or inverse scaling, for high frequency measurements. Deviations from true 1/r behavior usually
have to do with the fact that the equipment under test is not a point source, and due to site and ground plane reflections.
At low frequencies, however, the situation is quite different. Consider a magnetic source-a driven loop - operating
at 60 kHz. This source could be the horizontal drive of a CRT monitor, or a switching power supply, or the field
coil in a magnetic security system. The dividing line between near and far field at this frequency would be 800
meters. Any practical measurements would be taken in the near field at a much closer distance of the magnetic fields
with a loop antenna. It would be easy to demonstrate inverse cube law dependence of the field strength with distance.
Electric field strengths would be relatively low in the near field for a loop-like structure. Low E and high H mean
low wave impedance (see figure 3).
Figure 3: The wave impedance measures the relative strength of electric and magnetic fields.
It is a function of source structure.
Conversely, a dipolar source measured in the near field would exhibit strong electric fields and weak magnetic
fields. High E and low H mean high wave impedance. In both cases, as the distance increases to the far field, the
wave impedance approaches that of free space.
The FCC and CISPR ITE standards mandate the use of magnetic field antennas (shielded loop) below 30 MHz and linearly
polarized electric field antennas (dipoles, biconicals, log periodics) at higher frequencies. This essentially assumes
that only magnetic fields from loop-like sources are of interest at the lower frequencies (say below 5 to 10 MHz).
This is by no means a universal regulatory policy. Both military (MIL-STD-461/2) and Bellcore (GR-1089) include
the requirement to also measure low frequencies with an active 1 meter long whip antenna, which is electric field
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Posted February 5, 2013