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Chapter: RF and Microwave Engineering - Microwave Tubes and Measurements

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Traveling Wave Tube

Since Kompfner invented the helix traveling-wave tube (TWT) in 1944 , its basic circuit has changed little. For broadband applications, the helix TWTs are almost exclusively used, whereas for high-average-power purposes, such as radar transmitters, the coupled-cavity TWTs are commonly used.

TRAVELING WAVE TUBE

 

Since Kompfner invented the helix traveling-wave tube (TWT) in 1944 , its basic circuit has changed little. For broadband applications, the helix TWTs are almost exclusively used, whereas for high-average-power purposes, such as radar transmitters, the coupled-cavity TWTs are commonly used.

 

In previous sections klystrons and reflex klystrons were analyzed in some detail. Before starting to describe the TWT, it seems appropriate to compare the basic operating principles of both the TWT and the klystron. In the case of the TWT, the microwave circuit is nonresonant and the wave propagates with the same speed as the electrons in the beam. The initial effect on the beam is a small amount of velocity modulation caused by the weak electric fields associated with the traveling wave.

 

Just as in the klystron, this velocity modulation later translates to current modulation, which then induces an RF current in the circuit, causing amplification. However, there are some major differences between the TWT and the klystron:

The interaction of electron beam and RF field in the TWT is continuous over the entire length of the circuit, but the interaction in the klystron occurs only at the gaps of a few resonant cavities.

 

The wave in the TWT is a propagating wave; the wave in the klystron is not.

 

In the coupled-cavity TWT there is a coupling effect between the cavities, whereas each cavity in the klystron operates independently.

 

As the operating frequency is increased, both the inductance and capacitance of the resonant circuit must be decreased in order to maintain resonance at the operating frequency. Because the gain-bandwidth product is limited by the resonant circuit, the ordinary resonator cannot generate a large output. Several nonresonant periodic circuits or slow-wave structures (see Fig. 9-5-2) are designed for producing large gain over a wide bandwidth.


Slow-wave structures are special circuits that are used in microwave tubes to reduce the wave velocity in a certain direction so that the electron beam and the signal wave can interact. The phase velocity of a wave in ordinary waveguides is greater than the velocity of light in a vacuum.

 

In the operation of traveling-wave and magnetron-type devices, the electron beam must keep in step with the microwave signal. Since the electron beam can be accelerated only to velocities that are about a fraction of the velocity of light, a slow-wave structure must be incorporated in the microwave devices so that the phase velocity of the microwave signal can keep pace with that of the electron beam for effective interactions. Several types of slow-wave structures are shown in figure.



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