Isolator (microwave)

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Resonance absorption isolator consisting of WG16 waveguide containing two strips of ferrite (black rectangle near right edge of each broad wall), which are biased by a horseshoe permanent magnet external to the guide. Transmission direction is indicated by an arrow on the label on the right Isolator-(resonance-absorption-type)-in-WG16.jpg
Resonance absorption isolator consisting of WG16 waveguide containing two strips of ferrite (black rectangle near right edge of each broad wall), which are biased by a horseshoe permanent magnet external to the guide. Transmission direction is indicated by an arrow on the label on the right

An isolator is a two-port device that transmits microwave or radio frequency power in one direction only. It is used to shield equipment on its input side, from the effects of conditions on its output side; for example, to prevent a microwave source being detuned by a mismatched load.

Two-port network (kind of four-terminal network or quadripole) electrical network (circuit) or device with two pairs of terminals to connect to external circuits

A two-port network is an electrical network (circuit) or device with two pairs of terminals to connect to external circuits. Two terminals constitute a port if the currents applied to them satisfy the essential requirement known as the port condition: the electric current entering one terminal must equal the current emerging from the other terminal on the same port. The ports constitute interfaces where the network connects to other networks, the points where signals are applied or outputs are taken. In a two-port network, often port 1 is considered the input port and port 2 is considered the output port.

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.

Radio frequency (RF) is the oscillation rate of an alternating electric current or voltage or of a magnetic, electric or electromagnetic field or mechanical system in the frequency range from around twenty thousand times per second to around three hundred billion times per second. This is roughly between the upper limit of audio frequencies and the lower limit of infrared frequencies; these are the frequencies at which energy from an oscillating current can radiate off a conductor into space as radio waves. Different sources specify different upper and lower bounds for the frequency range.



An isolator is a non-reciprocal device, with a non-symmetric scattering matrix. An ideal isolator transmits all the power entering port 1 to port 2, while absorbing all the power entering port 2, so that to within a phase-factor its S-matrix is

In classical electromagnetism, reciprocity refers to a variety of related theorems involving the interchange of time-harmonic electric current densities (sources) and the resulting electromagnetic fields in Maxwell's equations for time-invariant linear media under certain constraints. Reciprocity is closely related to the concept of Hermitian operators from linear algebra, applied to electromagnetism.

Symmetric matrix Matrix equal to its transpose

In linear algebra, a symmetric matrix is a square matrix that is equal to its transpose. Formally,

Scattering parameters or S-parameters describe the electrical behavior of linear electrical networks when undergoing various steady state stimuli by electrical signals.

To achieve non-reciprocity, an isolator must necessarily incorporate a non-reciprocal material. At microwave frequencies this material is invariably a ferrite which is biased by a static magnetic field. The ferrite is positioned within the isolator such that the microwave signal presents it with a rotating magnetic field, with the rotation axis aligned with the direction of the static bias field. The behaviour of the ferrite depends on the sense of rotation with respect to the bias field, and hence is different for microwave signals travelling in opposite directions. Depending on the exact operating conditions, the signal travelling in one direction may either be phase-shifted, displaced from the ferrite or absorbed.

Ferrite (magnet) ceramic materials, many of them magnetic

A ferrite is a ceramic material made by mixing and firing large proportions of iron(III) oxide (Fe2O3, rust) blended with small proportions of one or more additional metallic elements, such as barium, manganese, nickel, and zinc. They are both electrically non-conductive, meaning that they are insulators, and ferrimagnetic, meaning they can easily be magnetized or attracted to a magnet. Ferrites can be divided into two families based on their resistance to being demagnetized (magnetic coercivity).


An X band isolator consisting of a waveguide circulator with an external matched load on one port AisladorG.JPG
An X band isolator consisting of a waveguide circulator with an external matched load on one port
Two isolators each consisting of a coax circulator and a matched load AisladorC.JPG
Two isolators each consisting of a coax circulator and a matched load

Resonance absorption

In this type the ferrite absorbs energy from the microwave signal travelling in one direction. A suitable rotating magnetic field is found in the TE10 mode of rectangular waveguide. The rotating field exists away from the centre-line of the broad wall, over the full height of the guide. However, to allow heat from the absorbed power to be conducted away, the ferrite does not usually extend from one broad-wall to the other, but is limited to a shallow strip on each face. For a given bias field, resonance absorption occurs over a fairly narrow frequency band, but since in practice the bias field is not perfectly uniform throughout the ferrite, the isolator functions over a somewhat wider band.

Waveguide (electromagnetism) waveguide for the transmission of electromagnetic waves; linear structure that conveys electromagnetic waves between its endpoints

In electromagnetics and communications engineering, the term waveguide may refer to any linear structure that conveys electromagnetic waves between its endpoints. However, the original and most common meaning is a hollow metal pipe used to carry radio waves. This type of waveguide is used as a transmission line mostly at microwave frequencies, for such purposes as connecting microwave transmitters and receivers to their antennas, in equipment such as microwave ovens, radar sets, satellite communications, and microwave radio links.

Field displacement

This type is superficially very similar to a resonance absorption isolator, but the magnetic biasing differs, and the energy from the backward travelling signal is absorbed in a resistive film or card on one face of the ferrite block rather than within the ferrite itself.

The bias field is weaker than that necessary to cause resonance at the operating frequency, but is instead designed to give the ferrite near-zero permeability for one sense of rotation of the microwave signal field. The bias polarity is such that this special condition arises for the forward signal; the backward signal sees the ferrite as an ordinary dielectric material (with little permeability, as the ferrite is already saturated by the bias field). Consequently, for the electromagnetic field of the forward signal, the ferrite has very low characteristic wave impedance, and the field tends to be excluded from the ferrite. This results in a null of the electric field of the forward signal on the surface of the ferrite where the resistive film is placed. Conversely for the backward signal, the electric field is strong over this surface and so its energy is dissipated in driving current through the film.

Permeability (electromagnetism) measure of the ability of a material to support the formation of a magnetic field within itself

In electromagnetism, permeability is the measure of the ability of a material to support the formation of a magnetic field within itself otherwise known as distributed inductance in Transmission Line Theory. Hence, it is the degree of magnetization that a material obtains in response to an applied magnetic field. Magnetic permeability is typically represented by the (italicized) Greek letter µ. The term was coined in September 1885 by Oliver Heaviside. The reciprocal of magnetic permeability is magnetic reluctivity.

Dielectric electrically poorly conducting or non-conducting, non-metallic substance of which charge carriers are generally not free to move

A dielectric is an electrical insulator that can be polarized by an applied electric field. When a dielectric is placed in an electric field, electric charges do not flow through the material as they do in an electrical conductor but only slightly shift from their average equilibrium positions causing dielectric polarization. Because of dielectric polarization, positive charges are displaced in the direction of the field and negative charges shift in the opposite direction. This creates an internal electric field that reduces the overall field within the dielectric itself. If a dielectric is composed of weakly bonded molecules, those molecules not only become polarized, but also reorient so that their symmetry axes align to the field.

Saturation (magnetic)

Seen in some magnetic materials, saturation is the state reached when an increase in applied external magnetic field H cannot increase the magnetization of the material further, so the total magnetic flux density B more or less levels off. Saturation is a characteristic of ferromagnetic and ferrimagnetic materials, such as iron, nickel, cobalt and their alloys.

In rectangular waveguide the ferrite block will typically occupy the full height from one broad-wall to the other, with the resistive film on the side facing the centre-line of the guide.

Using a circulator

A circulator is a non-reciprocal three- or four-port device, in which power entering any port is transmitted to the next port in rotation (only). So to within a phase-factor, the scattering matrix for a three-port circulator is

Circulator passive non-reciprocal three- or four-port device, in which a microwave or radio frequency signal entering any port is transmitted to the next port in rotation (only)

A circulator is a passive non-reciprocal three- or four-port device, in which a microwave or radio frequency signal entering any port is transmitted to the next port in rotation (only). A port in this context is a point where an external waveguide or transmission line, connects to the device. For a three-port circulator, a signal applied to port 1 only comes out of port 2; a signal applied to port 2 only comes out of port 3; a signal applied to port 3 only comes out of port 1, so to up to a phase-factor, the scattering matrix for an ideal three-port circulator is

A two-port isolator is obtained simply by terminating one of the three ports with a matched load, which absorbs all the power entering it. The biased ferrite is part of the circulator and causes a differential phase-shift for signals travelling in different directions. The bias field is lower than that needed for resonance absorption, and so this type of isolator does not require such a heavy permanent magnet. Because the power is absorbed in an external load, cooling is less of a problem than with a resonance absorption isolator.

See also

Related Research Articles

A magneto-optic effect is any one of a number of phenomena in which an electromagnetic wave propagates through a medium that has been altered by the presence of a quasistatic magnetic field. In such a material, which is also called gyrotropic or gyromagnetic, left- and right-rotating elliptical polarizations can propagate at different speeds, leading to a number of important phenomena. When light is transmitted through a layer of magneto-optic material, the result is called the Faraday effect: the plane of polarization can be rotated, forming a Faraday rotator. The results of reflection from a magneto-optic material are known as the magneto-optic Kerr effect.

Optical isolator faraday isolator

An optical isolator, or optical diode, is an optical component which allows the transmission of light in only one direction. It is typically used to prevent unwanted feedback into an optical oscillator, such as a laser cavity.

Ferrimagnetism Type of magnetic phenomenon

In physics, a ferrimagnetic material is one that has populations of atoms with opposing magnetic moments, as in antiferromagnetism; however, in ferrimagnetic materials, the opposing moments are unequal and a spontaneous magnetization remains. This happens when the populations consist of different materials or ions (such as Fe2+ and Fe3+).

Gyrator analog circuit

A gyrator is a passive, linear, lossless, two-port electrical network element proposed in 1948 by Bernard D. H. Tellegen as a hypothetical fifth linear element after the resistor, capacitor, inductor and ideal transformer. Unlike the four conventional elements, the gyrator is non-reciprocal. Gyrators permit network realizations of two-(or-more)-port devices which cannot be realized with just the conventional four elements. In particular, gyrators make possible network realizations of isolators and circulators. Gyrators do not however change the range of one-port devices that can be realized. Although the gyrator was conceived as a fifth linear element, its adoption makes both the ideal transformer and either the capacitor or inductor redundant. Thus the number of necessary linear elements is in fact reduced to three. Circuits that function as gyrators can be built with transistors and op-amps using feedback.

In physics, the Faraday effect or Faraday rotation is a magneto-optical phenomenon—that is, an interaction between light and a magnetic field in a medium. The Faraday effect causes a rotation of the plane of polarization which is linearly proportional to the component of the magnetic field in the direction of propagation. Formally, it is a special case of gyroelectromagnetism obtained when the dielectric permittivity tensor is diagonal.

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.

Electrodeless lamp

The internal electrodeless lamp or induction lamp is a gas discharge lamp in which an electric or magnetic field transfers the power required to generate light from outside the lamp envelope to the gas inside. This is in contrast to a typical gas discharge lamp that uses internal electrodes connected to the power supply by conductors that pass through the lamp envelope. Eliminating the internal electrodes provides two advantages:

Electron paramagnetic resonance

Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) or electron spin resonance (ESR) spectroscopy is a method for studying materials with unpaired electrons. The basic concepts of EPR are analogous to those of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), but it is electron spins that are excited instead of the spins of atomic nuclei. EPR spectroscopy is particularly useful for studying metal complexes or organic radicals. EPR was first observed in Kazan State University by Soviet physicist Yevgeny Zavoisky in 1944, and was developed independently at the same time by Brebis Bleaney at the University of Oxford.

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.

Transformer types

A variety of types of electrical transformer are made for different purposes. Despite their design differences, the various types employ the same basic principle as discovered in 1831 by Michael Faraday, and share several key functional parts.

Phase shift module

A phase shift module is a microwave network module which provides a controllable phase shift of the RF signal. Phase shifters are used in phased arrays.

Magic tee

A magic tee is a hybrid or 3 dB coupler used in microwave systems. It is an alternative to the rat-race coupler. In contrast to the rat-race, the three-dimensional structure of the magic tee makes it less readily constructed in planar technologies such as microstrip or stripline.

Tunable metamaterial

A tunable metamaterial is a metamaterial with a variable response to an incident electromagnetic wave. This includes remotely controlling how an incident electromagnetic wave interacts with a metamaterial. This means the capability to determine whether the EM wave is transmitted, reflected, or absorbed. In general, the lattice structure of the tunable metamaterial is adjustable in real time, making it possible to reconfigure a metamaterial device during operation. It encompasses developments beyond the bandwidth limitations in left-handed materials by constructing various types of metamaterials. The ongoing research in this domain includes electromagnetic materials that are very meta which mean good and has a band gap metamaterials (EBG), also known as photonic band gap (PBG), and negative refractive index material (NIM).

Pulsed electron paramagnetic resonance

Pulsed electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) is an electron paramagnetic resonance technique that involves the alignment of the net magnetization vector of the electron spins in a constant magnetic field. This alignment is perturbed by applying a short oscillating field, usually a microwave pulse. One can then measure the emitted microwave signal which is created by the sample magnetization. Fourier transformation of the microwave signal yields an EPR spectrum in the frequency domain. With a vast variety of pulse sequences it is possible to gain extensive knowledge on structural and dynamical properties of paramagnetic compounds. Pulsed EPR techniques such as electron spin echo envelope modulation (ESEEM) or pulsed electron nuclear double resonance (ENDOR) can reveal the interactions of the electron spin with its surrounding nuclear spins.

Coplanar waveguide

Coplanar waveguide is a type of electrical planar transmission line which can be fabricated using printed circuit board technology, and is used to convey microwave-frequency signals. On a smaller scale, coplanar waveguide transmission lines are also built into monolithic microwave integrated circuits. Conventional coplanar waveguide (CPW) consists of a single conducting track printed onto a dielectric substrate, together with a pair of return conductors, one to either side of the track. All three conductors are on the same side of the substrate, and hence are coplanar. The return conductors are separated from the central track by a small gap, which has an unvarying width along the length of the line. Away from the cental conductor, the return conductors usually extend to an indefinite but large distance, so that each is notionally a semi-infinite plane.

Distributed element circuit

Distributed element circuits are electrical circuits composed of lengths of transmission lines or other distributed components. These circuits perform the same functions as conventional circuits composed of passive components, such as capacitors, inductors, and transformers, as implemented by the distributed element model. They are used mostly at microwave frequencies, where the use of conventional components is difficult or impossible.


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Baden Fuller, A. J. (1969). Microwaves (1 ed.). Pergamon Press. ISBN   0-08-006616-X. 

Baden Fuller, A. J. (1987). Ferrites at Microwave Frequencies. IEE electromagnetic waves series. Peter Peregrinus. ISBN   0-86341-064-2.