OAM (Orbital Angular Momentum) Multiplexing is a form of multiplexing capable of high data speeds on limited bandwidth using the physical properties of EM waves.

An experiment in 2012 transmitted two data signals simultaneously on the same frequency over a distance of 442 meters on the 5ghz band.

Would the properties of OAM multiplexing work on the same level if done on the HF band (say for example 20 meters) with ionospheric propagation? If this was possible, could the signal coherently be transmitted and received?

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting rabbit hole. As far as I know, everything about radio wave propagation and antennas can be fully explained by regular Maxwell electromagnetics. There's no grey area or mystery or magic there at all. It gets messy if the structure is complex, but there are no fundamental limitations and there's no need for any quantum mechanics (though I think all electromagnetics can be derived from QED). So set up an antenna, or an array, it should all behave classically. Polarisation, MIMO, etc are all expected behaviour of EM waves. $\endgroup$
    – tomnexus
    Aug 28, 2020 at 19:30
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    $\begingroup$ It was fun but I'm calling BS on the second paper you mention. No peer review. No working understanding of antennas. Confusion between WiFi and a video transmitter. Audio spectrum analysis?! Shaky equipment. No anechoic environment, I've done a lot of antenna tests over ground and you see funny stuff. I like the dish that's been modified with tin snips to make it create a vortex though, pretty cool compared to the boring old all-rays-in-phase reflector. At best it's a demonstration of MIMO using the ground path, maybe worse. And what's with the public demonstration in the town square?! $\endgroup$
    – tomnexus
    Aug 28, 2020 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ yeah extremely so. A scientific experiment is designed like "we want to prove this effect. So we eliminate all possibilities for other effects to result in the same observation". What this does "oh, we observed channels, must be OAM. Also, we did it in the most publicly visible way possible. We are in need of attention and or funding." Their previous paper is better. $\endgroup$ Aug 28, 2020 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ but even that: six measurements, without giving any number, and the OAM property not actually demonstrated, just that classical EM simulation yields exactly what it should when observing the field point-wise with a simple dipole for the demonstrated reflector – this is just normal MIMO. There might really be more to it, but the paper doesn't describe it. $\endgroup$ Aug 28, 2020 at 20:20
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    $\begingroup$ yep, but think of this as kind of the generalized notion of polarization (rather, think of it as polarization varying over a plane, and potentially also over time); you can build an antenna for exactly this kind of wave, and you can build an antenna for a wave that doesn't interfere with the first one at all. But, of course, you could also have enough dipoles distributed on that plane and enough math to "do the same" as having an antenna shaped for exactly that OAM. Far as I can tell, the papers did the latter – but if you use but a finite number of antennas and look for orthogonal propagation $\endgroup$ Aug 28, 2020 at 21:31

2 Answers 2


This is a physicist level experiment, and its benefit over established methods disputed, and even Wikipedia says that it's performance benefit over MIMO are nonexistent to negligible.

So, no. Not in any realistic way.

Also, orbital angular momentum is a result of the mode of the electromagnetic wave and its propagation. Hence, if you want to use it, you'd need precise control of the mode.

You can (maybe) do that (at high effort) for light (which is also an electromagnetic wave) in a glass fibre (which is a waveguide). Cross-mode talk is a thing in the finely controlled environment of a fiber, still.

You can certainly not do that reliably for HF in propagation over a medium as inconsistent as the air, with boundaries varying in material and shape as the earth and ionosphere.

So, no. Totally different realm in which this highly immature thing is happening.

I find it kind of entertaining that someone would mention this moonshot technology in the context of HF communications in amateur radio applications.

I find it hard to find any area of hobbyist technology usage where the difference between the actual state of the art and the way the technology is used is as large as in HF communications done by amateur radio enthusiasts. Seriously, there's 60 to 90 years between what science and commercial technology can do, and what the average ham operator on HF does. Maybe we should catch up these decades, before you start following methods that try to improve upon what can be done so far.

That starts with retiring all analog modes, and all transceivers that are basically AM or SSB devices in favor of proper devices that can deal with both sides of a spectrum. Then, application of modern modulation, channel sensing and synchronization methods. Going for modern channel codes. Classical MIMO. Proper network and routing protocol design. Lobbying against counter-productive rate-limiting and legacy-mode-preserving regulation. Requiring a minimum effective spectral efficiency, especially for higher-powered transmitters.

Things like FT8 are a start. They tackle maybe half of these points.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer. For the HF band, what would be a good way of sending "high speed" (in comparison to very slow 1200-9600 baud) data with as little bandwith as possible? $\endgroup$
    – vz07
    Aug 28, 2020 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ that is a completely new question, and also completely underdefined. Please ask a new question and add as much information about what specifically you want to do, with how much power, over which distance, under which outage probability, accepting which error rate. $\endgroup$ Aug 28, 2020 at 21:27
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    $\begingroup$ @vz07 also consider including in this question your jurisdiction, since limits on speed may be more imposed by legal restrictions than technical ones. $\endgroup$ Aug 29, 2020 at 1:10
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    $\begingroup$ @vz07 your question about sending "high-speed" data over HF has been asked and answered already. Try entering "hf data" in the search box. $\endgroup$
    – rclocher3
    Aug 31, 2020 at 15:29

Orbital angular momentum is a near-field property of the electromagnetic field. To detect the orbital angular momentum one has to use a receive antenna that is big enough to detect the different phase and/or amplitude at different points in space. This can be used in optical communication where a light beam can use different OAM modes to transmit multiple messages on the same frequency between two antennas at the same time. It is a special case of MIMO.

To illustrate: Think of two large antenna arrays pointing towards each other at a modest distance. One antenna can then form a lobe that is small enough to illuminate only the upper left corner of the receiving antenna. It is then possible to simultaneously form three more lobes that illuminate the other three quadrants at the same time on the same frequency and thus transmit four channels on the same frequency. Instead one could combine those four channels to form a field with orbital angular momentum at the receive side. Imagine four feed-points each one exciting the entire tx array to point to one of the four quadrants. Feed them all with the same power but with different phases.

  1. The same phase in all four quadrants.
  2. 0 degrees in the upper two and 180 degrees in the lower two
  3. 0 degrees in the left side pair and 180 degrees in the right side pair.
  4. 0 degrees in the upper left and the lower right, 180 degrees in the other two.

Arrange the rx array as four independent antennas. Each one would have a twice as wide lobe and thus see the entire tx antenna. Combine the four rx antenna cables according to the above pattern to get four independent channels on the same frequency. As I see it, using OAM would be nearly equivalent to MIMO in which case one would have four independent channels by using the four channels of the tx side independently to point to the four parts of the rx antenna. Possibly the combination to make OAM waves would make the system more robust to variations in the transmission path, in particular if the near field is extended by being confined in an optical fibre.

The near field can be very far from the transmit location. Here is an example "Measurement of the spin of the M87 black hole from its observed twisted light": https://arxiv.org/pdf/1904.07923.pdf They write "because the radio source has been spatially resolved at 1.3 mm wavelength by the ∼10000km EHT radio-interferometric baseline."

It seems to me OAM might become useful at very high frequencies for short range communication to 5G base stations where extremely high data rates are needed and optical fibres might be unpractical: https://www.nec.com/en/press/201812/global_20181219_02.html I do not think OAM would be useful on HF with ionospheric propagation. The antennas would have to be big enough to form lobes that are narrower than the size of the antenna on the other side.

Certainly an antenna system like this one will easily detect OAM on HF: http://www.lofar.org/about-lofar/general-information/introduction.html


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