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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 ?
In the second category, Saelig is making available comb generators for EMC test, and AR RF/Microwave Instrumentation has introduced a line of solid-state field-generating systems that can serve as an alternative to traveling-wave tube amplifiers.
Designed for microwave, high intensity radiated field (HIRF), and radar testing, the high power pulse traveling-wave tube (TWT) amplifiers are used in satellite transponders, military, aerospace and many other applications.
Choi, "Analysis of a broadband Q band folded waveguide traveling-wave tube," IEEE Trans.
The helix traveling-wave tube (TWT) is one of the most important millimeter-wave radiation sources due to its outstanding combination of small size, light weight, high efficiency, good linearity, output power and large bandwidth [4].
Levush, "Traveling-wave tube devices with nonlinear dielectric elements," IEEE Trans.
Force, "Ultra-high power and efficiency space traveling-wave tube amplifier power combiner with reduced size and mass for NASA missions," IEEE Trans.
created the L-3 ETI Model 2300HE High Efficiency Space Traveling-Wave Tube Amplifier, for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft.
This new amplifier technology holds the promise to serve as an alternative to traveling-wave tube amplifiers(6) in high-output applications, and may enable smaller, more energy-efficient, higher performance, and longer-lasting transmission systems in radars, satellite communications, and advanced mobile-phone base stations.
France and Italy prefer the C-band Empar, powered by a traveling-wave tube. Both radars place their arrays in radomes rotating mechanically at 30 rpm, and the use of back-to-back arrays provides Sampson with at least two track points per scan, increased to four if beams at [+ or -]45[degrees] from broadside are scheduled.
The UHF receiver channel is to be modemized by replacing the standard traveling-wave tube HF amplifiers with a solid-state HFA As a result, sensitivity of the target-acquisition and tracking radars will improve capabilities against low-radar-cross-section targets: unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles, and stealth aircraft.
In addition, the dispersion curves of the two helix SWS are nearly parallel, although the interaction impedance of the novel helix SWS is smaller than that of the conventional helix SWS, we can increase the length of the interaction circuit to obtain higher power, wide-bandwidth, high reliability millimeter-wave traveling-wave tube.