Crossed-field amplifier

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A crossed-field amplifier (CFA) is a specialized vacuum tube, first introduced in the mid-1950s and frequently used as a microwave amplifier in very-high-power transmitters.

Vacuum tube Device that controls electric current between electrodes in an evacuated container

In electronics, a vacuum tube, an electron tube, or valve or, colloquially, a tube, is a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes to which an electric potential difference has been applied.

Microwave form of electromagnetic radiation

Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths ranging from about one meter to one millimeter; with frequencies between 300 MHz (1 m) and 300 GHz (1 mm). Different sources define different frequency ranges as microwaves; the above broad definition includes both UHF and EHF bands. A more common definition in radio engineering is the range between 1 and 100 GHz. In all cases, microwaves include the entire SHF band at minimum. Frequencies in the microwave range are often referred to by their IEEE radar band designations: S, C, X, Ku, K, or Ka band, or by similar NATO or EU designations.

Amplifier electronic device that can increase the power of a signal

An amplifier, electronic amplifier or (informally) amp is an electronic device that can increase the power of a signal. It is a two-port electronic circuit that uses electric power from a power supply to increase the amplitude of a signal applied to its input terminals, producing a proportionally greater amplitude signal at its output. The amount of amplification provided by an amplifier is measured by its gain: the ratio of output voltage, current, or power to input. An amplifier is a circuit that has a power gain greater than one.


Raytheon engineer William C. Brown's work to adapt magnetron principles to create a new broadband amplifier is generally recognized as the first CFA, which he called an Amplitron. Other names that are sometimes used by CFA manufacturers include Platinotron or Stabilotron.

Raytheon American defense contractor and industrial corporation

The Raytheon Company is a major U.S. defense contractor and industrial corporation with core manufacturing concentrations in weapons and military and commercial electronics. It was previously involved in corporate and special-mission aircraft until early 2007. Raytheon is the world's largest producer of guided missiles.

William C. Brown was an American electrical engineer who helped to invent the crossed-field amplifier in the 1950s and also pioneered microwave power transmission in the 1960s.

A CFA has lower gain and bandwidth than other microwave amplifier tubes (such as klystrons or traveling-wave tubes); but it is more efficient and capable of much higher output power.

Gain (electronics) ability of a  circuit to increase the power or amplitude of a signal

In electronics, gain is a measure of the ability of a two-port circuit to increase the power or amplitude of a signal from the input to the output port by adding energy converted from some power supply to the signal. It is usually defined as the mean ratio of the signal amplitude or power at the output port to the amplitude or power at the input port. It is often expressed using the logarithmic decibel (dB) units. A gain greater than one, that is amplification, is the defining property of an active component or circuit, while a passive circuit will have a gain of less than one.

Bandwidth (signal processing) difference between the upper and lower frequencies in a continuous set of frequencies

Bandwidth is the difference between the upper and lower frequencies in a continuous band of frequencies. It is typically measured in hertz, and depending on context, may specifically refer to passband bandwidth or baseband bandwidth. Passband bandwidth is the difference between the upper and lower cutoff frequencies of, for example, a band-pass filter, a communication channel, or a signal spectrum. Baseband bandwidth applies to a low-pass filter or baseband signal; the bandwidth is equal to its upper cutoff frequency.

Traveling-wave tube

A traveling-wave tube or traveling-wave tube amplifier is a specialized vacuum tube that is used in electronics to amplify radio frequency (RF) signals in the microwave range. The TWT belongs to a category of "linear beam" tubes, such as the klystron, in which the radio wave is amplified by absorbing power from a beam of electrons as it passes down the tube. Although there are various types of TWT, two major categories are:

Peak output powers of many megawatts and average power levels of tens of kilowatts can be achieved, with efficiency ratings in excess of 70 percent. Their current use is in ground stations for TVRO broadcasting and Deep Space telecommunications networks.


Crossed-field amplifier internal operation Crossed field amplifier.png
Crossed-field amplifier internal operation

The electric and magnetic fields in a CFA are perpendicular to each other ("crossed fields"). This is the same type of field interaction used in a magnetron; as a result, the two devices share many characteristics (such as high peak power and efficiency) and they have similar physical appearances. However, a magnetron is an oscillator and a CFA is an amplifier (although a CFA can be driven to oscillate by application of improper low voltages as can any amplifier); a CFA's RF circuit (or slow-wave structure) is similar to that in a coupled-cavity TWT.

The CFA has the useful property that when power is shut off, the input simply passes to the output with very little loss. This avoids the need for RF bypass switching in the event of failure.

Two CFAs can be connected sequentially with only one powered; if it fails, power can be removed from the primary tube and applied to the secondary as a backup. This approach with built-in redundancy was used on the S-band downlink transmitter on the Apollo Lunar Module where high efficiency and reliability were needed. [1] [ page needed ]

Apollo Lunar Module

The Apollo Lunar Module, or simply lunar module, originally designated the lunar excursion module (LEM), was the spacecraft which was flown to and landed on the Moon. The lander spacecraft were built for the US Apollo program by Grumman Aircraft. The lunar module, consisting of a descent stage and an ascent stage, was ferried from the Earth to the Moon attached to the Apollo spacecraft command and service module (CSM), approximately twice its mass. The ascent stage carried a crew of two who flew the spacecraft from lunar orbit to the surface and later back to the command module. Designed for lunar orbit rendezvous, the Apollo Lunar Module was discarded after completing its mission. It was capable of operation only in outer space; structurally and aerodynamically it was incapable of flight through the Earth's atmosphere. The lunar module was the first manned spacecraft to operate exclusively in the airless vacuum of space. It was the first, and to date only, crewed vehicle to land anywhere beyond Earth.

A large negative voltage is placed on the green electrode in the center, and a large magnetic field is directed perpendicular to the page. This forms a thin spinning disk of electrons with a flow pattern like spinning water as it drains from a sink or toilet. A slow-wave structure is located above and below the spinning disk of electrons. Electrons flow much slower than the speed of light, and the slow wave structure reduces the velocity of the input RF enough to match the electron velocity.

The RF input is introduced into the slow wave structure. The alternating microwave field causes the electrons to alternately speed up and slow down. These disturbances grow larger as electrons spiral around the device, and electrons slow down as the RF energy grows. This produces amplification.

There is a small amount of RF feedback from output to input. This creates a slight random phase jitter when the device is pulsed.

Related Research Articles

In electronics, the figures of merit of an amplifier are numerical measures that characterize its properties and performance. Figures of merit can be given as a list of specifications that include properties such as gain, bandwidth, noise and linearity, among others listed in this article. Figures of merit are important for determining the suitability of a particular amplifier for an intended use.

Cavity magnetron device for generating microwaves

The cavity magnetron is a high-powered vacuum tube that generates microwaves using the interaction of a stream of electrons with a magnetic field while moving past a series of open metal cavities. Electrons pass by the openings to these cavities and cause radio waves to oscillate within, similar to the way a whistle produces a tone when excited by an air stream blown past its opening. The frequency of the microwaves produced, the resonant frequency, is determined by the cavities' physical dimensions. Unlike other vacuum tubes such as a klystron or a traveling-wave tube (TWT), the magnetron cannot function as an amplifier in order to increase the intensity of an applied microwave signal; the magnetron serves solely as an oscillator, generating a microwave signal from direct current electricity supplied to the vacuum tube.

Transmitter Electronic device that emits radio waves

In electronics and telecommunications, a transmitter or radio transmitter is an electronic device which produces radio waves with an antenna. The transmitter itself generates a radio frequency alternating current, which is applied to the antenna. When excited by this alternating current, the antenna radiates radio waves.


A klystron is a specialized linear-beam vacuum tube, invented in 1937 by American electrical engineers Russell and Sigurd Varian, which is used as an amplifier for high radio frequencies, from UHF up into the microwave range. Low-power klystrons are used as oscillators in terrestrial microwave relay communications links, while high-power klystrons are used as output tubes in UHF television transmitters, satellite communication, radar transmitters, and to generate the drive power for modern particle accelerators.

Input impedance

The input impedance of an electrical network is the measure of the opposition to current (impedance), both static (resistance) and dynamic (reactance), into the load network that is external to the electrical source. The input admittance (1/impedance) is a measure of the load's propensity to draw current. The source network is the portion of the network that transmits power, and the load network is the portion of the network that consumes power.

Gunn diode diode

A Gunn diode, also known as a transferred electron device (TED), is a form of diode, a two-terminal passive semiconductor electronic component, with negative resistance, used in high-frequency electronics. It is based on the "Gunn effect" discovered in 1962 by physicist J. B. Gunn. Its largest use is in electronic oscillators to generate microwaves, in applications such as radar speed guns, microwave relay data link transmitters, and automatic door openers.


A gyrotron is a class of high-power linear-beam vacuum tubes which generates millimeter-wave electromagnetic waves by the cyclotron resonance of electrons in a strong magnetic field. Output frequencies range from about 20 to 527 GHz, covering wavelengths from microwave to the edge of the terahertz gap. Typical output powers range from tens of kilowatts to 1–2 megawatts. Gyrotrons can be designed for pulsed or continuous operation.

Linear amplifier

A linear amplifier is an electronic circuit whose output is proportional to its input, but capable of delivering more power into a load. The term usually refers to a type of radio-frequency (RF) power amplifier, some of which have output power measured in kilowatts, and are used in amateur radio. Other types of linear amplifier are used in audio and laboratory equipment.

Backward-wave oscillator

A backward wave oscillator (BWO), also called carcinotron or backward wave tube, is a vacuum tube that is used to generate microwaves up to the terahertz range. Belonging to the traveling-wave tube family, it is an oscillator with a wide electronic tuning range.

Distributed amplifier

Distributed amplifiers are circuit designs that incorporate transmission line theory into traditional amplifier design to obtain a larger gain-bandwidth product than is realizable by conventional circuits.

RF power amplifier

A radio frequency power amplifier is a type of electronic amplifier that converts a low-power radio-frequency signal into a higher power signal. Typically, RF power amplifiers drive the antenna of a transmitter. Design goals often include gain, power output, bandwidth, power efficiency, linearity, input and output impedance matching, and heat dissipation.

Valve RF amplifier

A valve RF amplifier or tube amplifier (U.S.), is a device for electrically amplifying the power of an electrical radio frequency signal.

The inductive output tube (IOT) or klystrode is a variety of linear-beam vacuum tube, similar to a klystron, used as a power amplifier for high frequency radio waves. It evolved in the 1980s to meet increasing efficiency requirements for high-power RF amplifiers in radio transmitters. The primary commercial use of IOTs is in UHF television transmitters, where they have mostly replaced klystrons because of their higher efficiencies and smaller size. IOTs are also used in particle accelerators. They are capable of producing power output up to about 30 kW continuous and 7 MW pulsed and gains of 20–23 dB at frequencies up to about a gigahertz.

A Microwave Power Module (MPM) is a microwave device used to amplify radio frequency signals to high power levels. It is a hybrid combination of solid-state and vacuum tube electronics, which encloses a solid-state driver amplifier (SSPA), traveling wave tube amplifier (TWTA) and electronic power conditioning (EPC) modules into a single unit. Their average output power capability falls between that of solid-state power amplifiers (SSPAs) and dedicated Traveling Wave Tube (TWT) amplifiers. They may be applied wherever high power microwave amplification is required, and space is at a premium. They are available in various frequency ranges, from S band up to W band. Typical output power at Ku band ranges from 20W to 1 kW.

Plasma lamps are a type of gas discharge lamp energized by radio frequency (RF) power. They are distinct from the novelty plasma lamps that were popular in the 1980s.

Barkhausen–Kurz tube high frequency vacuum tube electronic oscillator

The Barkhausen–Kurz tube, also called the retarding-field tube, reflex triode, B–K oscillator, and Barkhausen oscillator was a high frequency vacuum tube electronic oscillator invented in 1920 by German physicists Heinrich Georg Barkhausen and Karl Kurz. It was the first oscillator that could produce radio power in the ultra-high frequency (UHF) portion of the radio spectrum, above 300 MHz. It was also the first oscillator to exploit electron transit time effects. It was used as a source of high frequency radio waves in research laboratories, and in a few UHF radio transmitters through World War 2. Its output power was low which limited its applications. However it inspired research that led to other more successful transit time tubes such as the klystron, which made the low power Barkhausen-Kurz tube obsolete.

Sutton tube

A Sutton tube, or reflex klystron, is a type of vacuum tube used to generate microwaves. It is a low-power device used primarily for two purposes; one is to provide a tuneable low-power frequency source for the local oscillators in receiver circuits, and the other, with minor modifications, as a switch that could turn on and off another microwave source. The second use, sometimes known as a soft Sutton tube or rhumbatron switch, was a key component in the development of microwave radar during World War II. Microwave switches of all designs, including these, are more generally known as T/R tubes or T/R cells.

Extended interaction oscillator

The extended interaction oscillator (EIO) is a linear-beam vacuum tube designed to convert direct current to RF power. The conversion mechanism is the space charge wave process whereby velocity modulation in an electron beam transforms to current or density modulation with distance.