Electromagnetic Design and Performance of a Conical Microwave Blackbody Target for Radiometer Calibration

Houtz, Derek A.; Emery, William; Gu, Dazhen; Jacob, Karl; Murk, Axel; Walker, David K.; Wylde, Richard J. (2017). Electromagnetic Design and Performance of a Conical Microwave Blackbody Target for Radiometer Calibration. IEEE transactions on geoscience and remote sensing, 55(8), pp. 4586-4596. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers IEEE 10.1109/TGRS.2017.2694319

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A conical cavity has been designed and fabricated for use as a broadband passive microwave calibration source, or blackbody, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The blackbody will be used as a national primary standard for brightness temperature and will allow for the prelaunch calibration of spaceborne radiometers and calibration of ground-based systems to provide traceability among radiometric data. The conical geometry provides performance independent of polarization, minimizing reflections, and standing waves, thus having a high microwave emissivity. The conical blackbody has advantages over typical pyramidal array geometries, including reduced temperature gradients and excellent broadband electromagnetic performance over more than a frequency decade. The blackbody is designed for use between 18 and 230 GHz, at temperatures between 80 and 350 K, and is vacuum compatible. To approximate theoretical blackbody behavior, the design maximizes emissivity and thus minimizes reflectivity. A newly developed microwave absorber is demonstrated that uses cryogenically compatible, thermally conductive two-part epoxy with magnetic carbonyl iron (CBI) powder loading. We measured the complex permittivity and permeability properties for different CBI-loading percentages; the conical absorber is then designed and optimized with geometric optics and finite-element modeling, and finally, the reflectivity of the resulting fabricated structure is measured. We demonstrated normal incidence reflectivity considerably below -40 dB at all relevant remote sensing frequencies.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Applied Physics

UniBE Contributor:

Murk, Axel


600 Technology > 620 Engineering
500 Science > 530 Physics




Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers IEEE




Franziska Stämpfli

Date Deposited:

13 Jun 2018 10:54

Last Modified:

13 Jun 2018 10:54

Publisher DOI:






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