Radio frequency

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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 20  kHz to around 300  GHz . This is roughly between the upper limit of audio frequencies and the lower limit of infrared frequencies; [1] [2] 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.


Electric current

Electric currents that oscillate at radio frequencies (RF currents) have special properties not shared by direct current or alternating current of lower frequencies.

Frequency bands

The radio spectrum of frequencies is divided into bands with conventional names designated by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU):

ITU designation IEEE bands [5]
Full nameAbbreviation [6]
Below 3 Hz>105 km Tremendously low frequency [7] TLF N/A
3–30 Hz105–104 km Extremely low frequency ELF N/A
30–300 Hz104–103 km Super low frequency SLF N/A
300–3000 Hz103–100 km Ultra low frequency ULF N/A
3–30 kHz100–10 km Very low frequency VLF N/A
30–300 kHz10–1 km Low frequency LF N/A
300 kHz – 3 MHz1 km – 100 m Medium frequency MF N/A
3–30 MHz100–10 m High frequency HF HF
30–300 MHz10–1 m Very high frequency VHF VHF
300 MHz – 3 GHz1 m – 10 cm Ultra high frequency UHF UHF, L, S
3–30 GHz10–1 cm Super high frequency SHF S, C, X, Ku, K, Ka
30–300 GHz1 cm – 1 mm Extremely high frequency EHF Ka, V, W, mm
300 GHz – 3 THz1 mm – 0.1 mm Tremendously high frequency THF N/A

Frequencies of 1 GHz and above are conventionally called microwave, [8] while frequencies of 30 GHz and above are designated millimeter wave. More detailed band designations are given by the standard IEEE letter- band frequency designations [5] and the EU/NATO frequency designations. [9]



Radio frequencies are used in communication devices such as transmitters, receivers, computers, televisions, and mobile phones, to name a few. Radio frequencies are also applied in carrier current systems including telephony and control circuits. The MOS integrated circuit is the technology behind the current proliferation of radio frequency wireless telecommunications devices such as cellphones.


Radio frequency (RF) energy, in the form of radiating waves or electrical currents, has been used in medical treatments for over 75 years, [10] generally for minimally invasive surgeries using radiofrequency ablation including the treatment of sleep apnea. [11]


Test apparatus for radio frequencies can include standard instruments at the lower end of the range, but at higher frequencies, the test equipment becomes more specialized.[ citation needed ]

Mechanical oscillations

While RF usually refers to electrical oscillations, mechanical RF systems are not uncommon: see mechanical filter and RF MEMS.

See also

Related Research Articles

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In physics, electromagnetic radiation refers to the waves of the electromagnetic field, propagating (radiating) through space, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy. It includes radio waves, microwaves, infrared, (visible) light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays.

Electronic oscillator electronic circuit that produces a repetitive, oscillating electronic signal

An electronic oscillator is an electronic circuit that produces a periodic, oscillating electronic signal, often a sine wave or a square wave. Oscillators convert direct current (DC) from a power supply to an alternating current (AC) signal. They are widely used in many electronic devices ranging from simplest clock generators to digital instruments and complex computers and peripherals etc. Common examples of signals generated by oscillators include signals broadcast by radio and television transmitters, clock signals that regulate computers and quartz clocks, and the sounds produced by electronic beepers and video games.

The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation and their respective wavelengths and photon energies.

Microwave Electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths from 1 m to 1 mm

Microwave is 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-frequency 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.

Electromagnetic compatibility ability of electrical equipment/system to function acceptably in its electromagnetic environment by limiting unintentional generation, propagation and reception of electromagnetic energy causing interference or physical damage

Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) is the ability of electrical equipment and systems to function acceptably in their electromagnetic environment, by limiting the unintentional generation, propagation and reception of electromagnetic energy which may cause unwanted effects such as electromagnetic interference (EMI) or even physical damage in operational equipment. The goal of EMC is the correct operation of different equipment in a common electromagnetic environment. It is also the name given to the associated branch of electrical engineering.

Transmission medium material substance that can propagate energy waves

A transmission medium is something that can mediate the propagation of signals for the purposes of telecommunication.

Coaxial cable Electrical cable type with concentric inner conductor, insulator, and conducting shield

Coaxial cable, or coax is a type of electrical cable consisting of an inner conductor surrounded by a concentric conducting shield, with the two separated by a dielectric ; many coaxial cables also have a protective outer sheath or jacket. The term "coaxial" refers to the inner conductor and the outer shield sharing a geometric axis.

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.

Radio wave Type of electromagnetic radiation

Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum longer than infrared light. Radio waves have frequencies as high as 300 gigahertz (GHz) to as low as 30 hertz (Hz). At 300 GHz, the corresponding wavelength is 1 mm ; at 30 Hz the corresponding wavelength is 10,000 km. Like all other electromagnetic waves, radio waves travel at the speed of light in vacuum. Radio waves are generated by charged particles undergoing acceleration, such as time-varying electric currents. Naturally occurring radio waves are emitted by lightning and astronomical objects.

Very low frequency The range 3-30 kHz of the electromagnetic spectrum

Very low frequency or VLF is the ITU designation for radio frequencies (RF) in the range of 3–30 kHz, corresponding to wavelengths from 100 to 10 km, respectively. The band is also known as the myriameter band or myriameter wave as the wavelengths range from one to ten myriameters. Due to its limited bandwidth, audio (voice) transmission is highly impractical in this band, and therefore only low data rate coded signals are used. The VLF band is used for a few radio navigation services, government time radio stations and for secure military communication. Since VLF waves can penetrate at least 40 meters (120 ft) into saltwater, they are used for military communication with submarines.

Super high frequency (SHF) is the ITU designation for radio frequencies (RF) in the range between 3 and 30 gigahertz (GHz). This band of frequencies is also known as the centimetre band or centimetre wave as the wavelengths range from one to ten centimetres. These frequencies fall within the microwave band, so radio waves with these frequencies are called microwaves. The small wavelength of microwaves allows them to be directed in narrow beams by aperture antennas such as parabolic dishes and horn antennas, so they are used for point-to-point communication and data links and for radar. This frequency range is used for most radar transmitters, wireless LANs, satellite communication, microwave radio relay links, and numerous short range terrestrial data links. They are also used for heating in industrial microwave heating, medical diathermy, microwave hyperthermy to treat cancer, and to cook food in microwave ovens.

The V band ("vee-band") is a standard designation by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for a band of frequencies in the microwave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum ranging from 40 to 75 gigahertz (GHz). The V band is not heavily used, except for millimeter wave radar research and other kinds of scientific research. It should not be confused with the 600–1000 MHz range of Band V of the UHF frequency range.

The radio spectrum is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum with frequencies from 30 Hz to 300 GHz. Electromagnetic waves in this frequency range, called radio waves, are widely used in modern technology, particularly in telecommunication. To prevent interference between different users, the generation and transmission of radio waves is strictly regulated by national laws, coordinated by an international body, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Electromagnetic interference Disturbance in an electrical circuit due to external sources of radio waves

Electromagnetic interference (EMI), also called radio-frequency interference (RFI) when in the radio frequency spectrum, is a disturbance generated by an external source that affects an electrical circuit by electromagnetic induction, electrostatic coupling, or conduction. The disturbance may degrade the performance of the circuit or even stop it from functioning. In the case of a data path, these effects can range from an increase in error rate to a total loss of the data. Both man-made and natural sources generate changing electrical currents and voltages that can cause EMI: ignition systems, cellular network of mobile phones, lightning, solar flares, and auroras. EMI frequently affects AM radios. It can also affect mobile phones, FM radios, and televisions, as well as observations for radio astronomy and atmospheric science.

Spark-gap transmitter device

A spark-gap transmitter is an obsolete type of radio transmitter which generates radio waves by means of an electric spark. Spark-gap transmitters were the first type of radio transmitter, and were the main type used during the wireless telegraphy or "spark" era, the first three decades of radio, from 1887 to the end of World War I. German physicist Heinrich Hertz built the first experimental spark-gap transmitters in 1887, with which he proved the existence of radio waves and studied their properties.

Feed line Transmission line in radio antennas

In a radio antenna, the feed line (feedline), or feeder, is the cable or other transmission line that connects the antenna with the radio transmitter or receiver. In a transmitting antenna, it feeds the radio frequency (RF) current from the transmitter to the antenna, where it is radiated as radio waves. In a receiving antenna it transfers the tiny RF voltage induced in the antenna by the radio wave to the receiver. In order to carry RF current efficiently, feed lines are made of specialized types of cable called transmission line. The most widely used types of feed line are coaxial cable, twin-lead, ladder line, and at microwave frequencies, waveguide.

Dielectric heating Heating using radio waves

Dielectric heating, also known as electronic heating, radio frequency heating, and high-frequency heating, is the process in which a radio frequency (RF) alternating electric field, or radio wave or microwave electromagnetic radiation heats a dielectric material. At higher frequencies, this heating is caused by molecular dipole rotation within the dielectric.

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

In radio-frequency engineering and communications engineering, waveguide 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.

Radio Technology of using radio waves to carry information

Radio is the technology of signaling and communicating using radio waves. Radio waves are electromagnetic waves of frequency between 30 hertz (Hz) and 300 gigahertz (GHz). They are generated by an electronic device called a transmitter connected to an antenna which radiates the waves, and received by a radio receiver connected to another antenna. Radio is very widely used in modern technology, in radio communication, radar, radio navigation, remote control, remote sensing and other applications.

Non-ionizing radiation electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum to ionize atoms or molecules

Non-ionizingradiation refers to any type of electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum to ionize atoms or molecules—that is, to completely remove an electron from an atom or molecule. Instead of producing charged ions when passing through matter, non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation has sufficient energy only for excitation, the movement of an electron to a higher energy state. In contrast, ionizing radiation has a higher frequency and shorter wavelength than non-ionizing radiation, and can be a serious health hazard; exposure to it can cause burns, radiation sickness, cancer, and genetic damage. Using ionizing radiation requires elaborate radiological protection measures, which in general are not required with non-ionizing radiation.


  1. J. A. Fleming, The Principles of Electric Wave Telegraphy and Telephony, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1919, p. 364
  2. A. A. Ghirardi, Radio Physics Course, 2nd ed. New York: Rinehart Books, 1932, p. 249
  3. Curtis, Thomas Stanley (1916). High Frequency Apparatus: Its Construction and Practical Application. USA: Everyday Mechanics Company. pp.  6. electric shock pain.
  4. Mieny, C. J. (2005). Principles of Surgical Patient Care (2nd ed.). New Africa Books. p. 136. ISBN   9781869280055.
  5. 1 2 IEEE Std 521-2002 Standard Letter Designations for Radar-Frequency Bands Archived 2013-12-21 at the Wayback Machine , Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2002. (Convenience copy at National Academies Press.)
  6. Jeffrey S. Beasley; Gary M. Miller (2008). Modern Electronic Communication (9th ed.). pp. 4–5. ISBN   978-0132251136.
  7. Tremendously low frequency (TLF) (electromagnetic radiation, frequency below 3 Hz)
  8. Kumar, Sanjay; Shukla, Saurabh (2014). Concepts and Applications of Microwave Engineering. PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd. p. 3. ISBN   978-8120349353.
  9. Leonid A. Belov; Sergey M. Smolskiy; Victor N. Kochemasov (2012). Handbook of RF, Microwave, and Millimeter-Wave Components. Artech House. pp. 27–28. ISBN   978-1-60807-209-5.
  10. Ruey J. Sung & Michael R. Lauer (2000). Fundamental approaches to the management of cardiac arrhythmias. Springer. p. 153. ISBN   978-0-7923-6559-4. Archived from the original on 2015-09-05.
  11. Melvin A. Shiffman; Sid J. Mirrafati; Samuel M. Lam; Chelso G. Cueteaux (2007). Simplified Facial Rejuvenation. Springer. p. 157. ISBN   978-3-540-71096-7.