RF Components: Amplifiers

The use of the RF and microwave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum for communications has only been harnessed by man for about 100 years. This includes AM and FM radio broadcasts, television broadcasts, satellite and cellular communications, military and aviation applications, and more.


Amplifying the RF Spectrum

Gugliemo Marconi gets credit for being the first person to harness radio waves for the purpose of communicating spoken messages to a handful of people. This happened in 1895. However, the full power of Marconi’s “wireless telegraph” wouldn’t be realized until 1930, when amplifiers were invented.

Low-power radio signals are an inherently weak way of transmitting messages, as the signals are reduced in their effective power the further they travel. Amplifiers increase the power level of the signals being transmitted, thereby allowing them to travel further and still be received and decoded properly. Today’s amplifiers are used in both commercial and private broadcasting, and radio stations use them to transmit signals across specific geographic areas. Shipping companies use them to maintain contact with cargo, and government agencies use them to communicate with soldiers in remote parts of the world. The general public, of course, relies on them to receive information on their radios, televisions and cell phones.

RF amplifiers are critical components for mass communication systems, and therefore must be characterized and tested thoroughly. Gain, frequency response, flatness, linearity, and compression are common measurements taken on amplifiers, and are most frequently characterized with a vector network analyzer (VNA). Signal generators, spectrum analyzers, power meters and attenuators also may be used depending on the design and intended use of a particular amplifier.

Check out MATsolutions’ inventory here, and if you have any questions about testing RF amplifiers or components, feel free to contact us at MATsolutions.

Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_telegraphy