traveling-wave tube

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traveling-wave tube

[′trav·əl·iŋ ¦wāv ‚tüb]
An electron tube in which a stream of electrons interacts continuously or repeatedly with a guided electromagnetic wave moving substantially in synchronism with it, in such a way that there is a net transfer of energy from the stream to the wave; the tube is used as an amplifier or oscillator at frequencies in the microwave region.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Traveling-Wave Tube


a vacuum tube in which prolonged interaction between a traveling electromagnetic wave and an electron flux moving in the same direction is used to amplify SHF electromagnetic oscillations. The main use of traveling-wave tubes is the amplification of SHF oscillations (300 megahertz [MHz] to 300 gigahertz [GHz]) in receiving and transmitting devices; they are also used for frequency conversion and multiplication. A vacuum tube whose operation was based on the interaction between an electron flux and a traveling wave was first proposed and patented by the American engineer A. Hoeff in 1936, and the first traveling-wave tube was built by the American scientist R. Kompfner in 1943. The first theoretical work dealing with the traveling-wave tube was published by the American physicist J. Pierce in 1947.

The main components of a traveling-wave tube (see Figure 1) are an electron gun, which generates and forms the electron beam, and a slow-wave system, which reduces the velocity of the traveling wave along the axis of the tube to a velocity approaching that of the electrons, thus achieving a wave motion that is synchronous with the electron beam. (The system is usually a metal helix that is rigidly attached by longitudinal dielectric supports; the velocity of the wave traveling along the helix depends only weakly on the frequency. As a result, effective interaction of the wave with the electron beam can be achieved over a wide frequency band.) Other components include a focusing system (a periodic system of permanent magnets, solenoids, and so on) to confine the electron beam within the required cross-sectional limits along the entire length of the beam by means of a magnetic field; a collector, which is used to capture electrons; a radio-frequency input and output; and an absorber of SHF oscillatory energy. The absorber is placed in a small region of the slow-wave system to eliminate self-excitation of the traveling-wave tube caused by reflection of the wave at the ends of the slow-wave system.

Figure 1. Diagram of a traveling-wave tube: (1) electron gun, (2) slow-wave system, (3) solenoid focusing system, (4) collector, (5) output, (6) absorber of SHF oscillation energy, (7) input

The mechanism of interaction between the electron flux and the electromagnetic wave may be explained as follows. Under the action of the accelerating and retarding regions of the wave’s electric field (the positive and negative half-wave, respectively), the electrons moving synchronously with the wave are grouped into bunches. The bunches are located in the regions of the field where an accelerating half-wave gives way to a decelerating half-wave. If the velocities of the wave and the electrons are equal, no energy interchange occurs between them, and no amplification takes place. If the velocity of the electrons is slightly higher than the velocity of the wave, the bunches of electrons overtake the wave and enter into the retarding field regions and therefore are decelerated. The kinetic energy lost by the electrons during deceleration is converted to the energy of the traveling wave.

Traveling-wave tubes are broad-band devices; the frequency pass band exceeds an octave in many types of tubes. Traveling-wave tubes are manufactured with an output power from fractions of a milliwatt (input-stage low-power and low-noise tubes in SHF amplifiers) to dozens of kilowatts (output-stage high-power tubes in SHF transmitters) in the continuous mode and up to several megawatts for pulsed operation.

Traveling-wave tubes provide high amplification, usually from 30 to 60 decibels (dB). The efficiency of medium-power and high-power tubes is not great (usually about 30 percent). For input amplification stages in a broad frequency band traveling-wave tubes are manufactured with an output power of 10−4 to 10 W and with low noise factors (3-20 dB). In addition to the tubes already discussed, tubes of the magnetron type are also in use.


Pierce, J. R. Lampa s begushchei volnoi. Moscow, 1952. (Translated from English.)
Kovalenko, V. F. Vvedenie ν elektroniku sverkhvysokikh chastot, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1955.
Sretenskii, V. N. Osnovy primeneniia elektronnykh priborov sverkhvysokikh chastot. Moscow, 1963.
Zhukov, B. S., and S. A. Peregunov. Lampy begushchei volny. Moscow, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

traveling-wave tube (TWT)

traveling-wave tube (TWT)click for a larger image
The helix slows down the propagation of electrons as they travel down the tube, the electrons will bunch, and reinforce the voltage in the helix, which creates amplification.
An electron tube in which a stream of electrons interacts continuously or repeatedly with a guided electromagnetic wave, moving substantially in synchronism with it and in such a way that there is a net transfer of energy from the stream to the wave. A TWT can be used to produce energy at ultrahigh and microwave frequencies by coupling some of the output back into input, or what is called a backward oscillator, because the feedback is applied opposite to the direction of the movement of electrons. This can produce about 20 to 100 mW of radio-frequency power at frequencies up to several gigahertz. The backward-wave arrangement can also be used for amplification, but the most common traveling-wave amplifier configuration is the parametric amplifier, which uses the forward-wave mode.
An Illustrated Dictionary of Aviation Copyright © 2005 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
References in periodicals archive ?
Bhattacharjee, "Accurate parametric modeling of folded waveguide circuits for millimeter wave traveling wave tubes," IEEE Trans.
Antonsen, Jr., "Theory of helix traveling wave tubes with dielectric and vane loading," Phys.
The contract is for the repair of Traveling Wave Tubes (TWTs) used on the ALQ-99 system in support of the EA-18G "Growler" aircraft.
Luhmann, Jr., "0.22 THz wideband sheet electron beam traveling wave tube amplifier: Cold test measurements and beam wave interaction analysis," Physics of Plasmas, Vol.
Wang, "Sine waveguide for 0.22 THz traveling wave tube," IEEE Electron Device Letters, Vol.
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This contract is for Ku and Ka-band high-power traveling wave tube amplifiers (TWTAs) for a transportable satellite communications ground system.
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This was followed by a burst of activity during the second World War that included the magnetron, traveling wave tube (TWT) and the backward wave oscillator (BWO).