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A. Grande1, J. Pereda2, A. Cabeceira1, I. Barba1, J. Represa1

1University of Valladolid (SPAIN)
2University of Cantabria (SPAIN)
Teaching experience says that students generally find electromagnetic wave propagation difficult to understand and learn. One basic reason is that they do not have the necessary physical insight in the subject and have difficulty comprehending the behavior of electromagnetic waves.

Electromagnetic simulators are usually used as research and industry design tools. However, these simulators can also be intended to enhance and ease the learning process. Thus, electromagnetic simulators can be used as virtual laboratories that permit to carry out a wide variety of numerical experiments. There are a number of computational methods that have been developed for the simulation of electromagnetic waves. Some of the most popular are the Method of Moments (MoM) [1] and the Finite-Element Method (FEM) [2]. These methods are typically implemented in the frequency domain. Nevertheless, time domain simulators present the advantage of emulating the progression of the fields as they actually evolve in space and time. For this reason, time domain simulators can be useful teaching tools to provide physical insight into the phenomena under study.

In this work we describe the use of a Finite-Difference Time-Domain (FDTD) [3] electromagnetic simulator to create a virtual electromagnetic laboratory. The FDTD method is a widely used tool in computational electrodynamics. One reason that explains the growth of the FDTD method is its simplicity along with its capability to solve extremely complicated engineering problems. Thus, the FDTD method can be taught at the undergraduate or early graduate level.

The purpose of this work is twofold. On one hand, the objective is to provide students with a time-domain electromagnetic simulation tool that allows them to carry out not only experiments envisaged by the professor but also their own numerical experiments. On the other hand, the intention is also to lay a foundation of the basic of the FDTD method.

[1] A. F. Peterson, S. R. Ray and R. Mittra (1998), Computational Methods for Electromagnetics, New York: IEEE Press.
[2] J. M. Jin (2002), The Finite Element Method in Electromagnetics, 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons, INc.
[3] A. Taflove (1995), Computational Electrodynamics: The Finite-Difference Time-Domain Method, Artech House.