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Modern microwave power sources

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1 Author(s)
Symons, R.S. ; Litton Electron Devices Div., San Carlos, CA, USA

The primary advantages of electron tubes over solid-state devices are that they are usually more efficient and will operate at higher temperature. Therefore, they can be smaller, tighter and still dissipate the waste heat that, unavoidably, goes along with the production of high output power. It is no accident that a one-megawatt cw microwave tube (1340 horsepower) is about the same size as a 1250 horsepower internal combustion engine. An assemblage of transistors or integrated circuits would be a much larger maze of circuit boards, power busses, cables, combiners, fuses, heat sinks, and, probably, water pipes. Unlike the situation that pertains for signal and data processing in which Moore's law applies, and complexity and performance increase while size and cost decrease in secular fashion, the transmitter built one hundred years from now will be no smaller and no lighter than the one you build today, unless the active elements are more efficient or run hotter than present-day microwave tubes. At ultra-high frequencies and above, solid-state technology has little hope of providing either advantage. The laws of thermodynamics are not man-made and cannot be broken. Many signals, including both analog and digital TV, digital communications, and EW, have high ratios of peak to average power. The poor efficiency of some microwave solid-state devices in class-A or class-AB operation when compared to that of class-AB gridded electron tubes and TWTs with multistage depressed collectors has interfered with their acceptance as amplifiers of such signals in both commercial and military service at UHF and higher frequencies. In this paper, new data on the new kinds of microwave tubes will be presented with emphasis on their suitability for application in economical, high-reliability, high-performance satellites, and communications, electronic warfare, and radar systems

Published in:

Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:17 ,  Issue: 1 )

Date of Publication:

Jan 2002

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