Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical, Computer & Energy Engineering

First Advisor

Zoya Popovic

Second Advisor

Josh Gordon

Third Advisor

Dejan Filipovic

Fourth Advisor

Albin Gasiewski

Fifth Advisor

Perry Wilson


This thesis solves the problem of inexpensive performance test and characterization for passive binary backscatter communication. The approach examines link behavior in realistic environments, measurable performance metrics to characterize this behavior, and testbed design for accurate test and measurement of these parameters. The ultimate goal is to improve system design practices and support test standard development.

The principal result is a theory of backscatter signaling based on linear microwave network theory that is suitable for metrology, test engineering, and link analysis. The parameter is simple and clearly defined for measurement and link analysis suitable in any linear propagation environment including free space, line-of-sight, and deep fading. The theory is built on a clearly defined and justified BPSK definition for arbitrary binary-modulated backscatter power. A measurable figure of merit is developed that gives an absolute lower bound on the modulation power in backscatter received by monostatic transceivers from passive transponders.

The concepts are applied to passive monostatic UHF RFID operating in the far-field, which is the most common use of passive backscatter. Measurements of commercial RFID readers and tags validate the theory and confirm the utility of the figure of merit defined by this thesis. This becomes the basis for a simple new method for specifying RFID device performance to maximize communication speed by optimizing the backscatter link. The approach developed here is expected to gain importance in the future as backscatter losses increase because of increased passive RFID communication range increases.