QRZ.Com currently has a very interesting item on fractal antennas. While the idea of applying fractals to the design and construction of antennas has been around for quite some time, very few hams have actually built them, and there are currently no companies building commercial fractal antennas for the ham radio market. The question, of course, is why?
Those that are hyping fractal antennas—most notably W1YW, CEO of Fractal Antenna Systems—claim several advantages. These advantages purportedly include wider bandwidth smaller size when compared to traditional antennas, such as verticals and dipoles. Those that are trying to debunk these claims contend that this is all just hogwash, and that there’s no real scientific basis for these claims.
One thing that’s confounding this debate is that there have been very few articles published on the topic. For commercial reasons, W1YW has made his articles unavailable. He says that he will be publishing something real soon now, but it’s uncertain to me when exactly this is going to happen.
There is at least one article out there that describes the construction of a fractal antenna for amateur radio use. “FYI:FYQ: Another look at the Fractal Quad Yagi” was published in the October 1999 issue of 73 magazine. It describes the construction of a two-element, 10m antenna. Like most 73 articles, it’s not incredibly technical, though, and doesn’t really contribute to this debate, except to demonstrate physically small antennas can be made using fractal design.
Below is a photo of a 10m antenna that W1YW says that he made, just to give you an idea of what they look like.
Even this photo caused quite a bit of controversy, some noting that they thought the photo was doctored or that they didn’t think that the antenna, as pictured, could really work as claimed.
What’s interesting is not so much the antennas themselves, but the personalities on both sides of the fence. The discussion quickly devolved into a flame war, with neither side scoring a knockout.
Personally, I think the brouhaha is much ado about nothing. It seems to me that it’s been demonstrated that you can build antennas using fractal design techniques. They are physically smaller than traditional antenna designs, but you really don’t get something for nothing. Overall, they don’t have as much gain as yagis or quads, and they’re more complex to build.
If W1YW can build antennas that radiate a signal and can sell those antennas to someone, then more power to him. In the end, his company will live and die by how well, his antennas work and how much they cost when compared to antennas from other companies.