Microwave devices and components. Phase delay and propagation velocity. The propagation constant. Transmission line distortion. Wave reflection and the reflection. coefficient. Standing wave ratio. Fundamental waveguide characteristics. Microwave passive components. The directional coupler. Waveguide junctions. Cavity resonators. Circulators and isolators. Microwave active devices. Solid-state devices. Microwave tubes. Multicavity magnetrons.
Klystrons amplify RF signals by converting the kinetic energy in a DC electron beam into radio frequency power. A beam of electrons is produced by a thermionic cathode (a heated pellet of low work function material), and accelerated by high-voltage electrodes (typically in the tens of kilovolts). This beam is then passed through an input cavity. RF energy is fed into the input cavity at, or near, its natural frequency to produce a voltage which acts on the electron beam. The electric field causes the electrons to bunch: electrons that pass through during an opposing electric field are accelerated and later electrons are slowed, causing the previously continuous electron beam to form bunches at the input frequency. To reinforce the bunching, a klystron may contain additional "buncher" cavities. The RF current carried by the beam will produce an RF magnetic field, and this will in turn excite a voltage across the gap of subsequent resonant cavities. In the output cavity, the developed RF energy is coupled out. The spent electron beam, with reduced energy, is captured in a collector.
Two-cavity klystron amplifier
In the two-chamber klystron, the electron beam is injected into a resonant cavity. The electron beam, accelerated by a positive potential, is constrained to travel through a cylindrical drift tube in a straight path by an axial magnetic field. While passing through the first cavity, the electron beam is velocity modulated by the weak RF signal. In the moving frame of the electron beam, the velocity modulation is equivalent to a plasma oscillation. Plasma oscillations are rapid oscillations of the electron density in conducting media such as plasmas or metals.(The frequency only depends weakly on the wavelength). So in a quarter of one period of the plasma frequency, the velocity modulation is converted to density modulation, i.e. bunches of electrons. As the bunched electrons enter the second chamber they induce standing waves at the same frequency as the input signal. The signal induced in the second chamber is much stronger than that in the first.
Two-cavity klystron oscillator
The two-cavity amplifier klystron is readily turned into an oscillator klystron by providing a feedback loop between the input and output cavities. Two-cavity oscillator klystrons have the advantage of being among the lowest-noise microwave sources available, and for that reason have often been used in the illuminator systems of missile targeting radars. The two-cavity oscillator klystron normally generates more power than the reflex klystronypically watts of output rather than milliwatts. Since there is no reflector, only one high-voltage supply is necessary to cause the tube to oscillate, the voltage must be adjusted to a particular value. This is because the electron beam must produce the bunched electrons in the second cavity in order to generate output power. Voltage must be adjusted to vary the velocity of the electron beam (and thus the frequency) to a suitable level due to the fixed physical separation between the two cavities. Often several "modes" of oscillation can be observed in a given klystron.
In the reflex klystron (also known as a 'Sutton' klystron after its inventor), the electron beam passes through a single resonant cavity. The electrons are fired into one end of the tube by an electron gun. After passing through the resonant cavity they are reflected by a negatively charged reflector electrode for another pass through the cavity, where they are then collected. The electron beam is velocity modulated when it first passes through the cavity. The formation of electron bunches takes place in the drift space between the reflector and the cavity. The voltage on the reflector must be adjusted so that the bunching is at a maximum as the electron beam re-enters the resonant cavity, thus ensuring a maximum of energy is transferred from the electron beam to the RF oscillations in the cavity. The voltage should always be switched on before providing the input to the reflex klystron as the whole function of the reflex klystron would be destroyed if the supply is provided after the input. The reflector voltage may be varied slightly from the optimum value, which results in some loss of output power, but also in a variation in frequency. This effect is used to good advantage for automatic frequency control in receivers, and in frequency modulation for transmitters. The level of modulation applied for transmission is small enough that the power output essentially remains constant. At regions far from the optimum voltage, no oscillations are obtained at all. This tube is called a reflex klystron because it repels the input supply or performs the opposite function of a klystron.
There are often several regions of reflector voltage where the reflex klystron will oscillate; these are referred to as modes. The electronic tuning range of the reflex klystron is usually referred to as the variation in frequency between half power pointshe points in the oscillating mode where the power output is half the maximum output in the mode. It should be noted that the frequency of oscillation is dependent on the reflector voltage, and varying this provides a crude method of frequency modulating the oscillation frequency, albeit with accompanying amplitude modulation as well.
Modern semiconductor technology has effectively replaced the reflex klystron in most applications.
Large klystrons as used in the storage ring of the Australian Synchrotron to maintain the energy of the electron beam
In all modern klystrons, the number of cavities exceeds two. A larger number of cavities may be used to increase the gain of the klystron, or to increase the bandwidth.
Tuning a klystron
Some klystrons have cavities that are tunable. Tuning a klystron is delicate work which, if not done properly, can cause damage to equipment or injury to the technician. By adjusting the frequency of individual cavities, the technician can change the operating frequency, gain, output power, or bandwidth of the amplifier. The technician must be careful not to exceed the limits of the graduations, or damage to the klystron can result.
Manufacturers generally send a card with the unique calibrations for a klystron's performance characteristics, that lists the graduations to be set to attain any of a set of listed frequencies. No two klystrons are exactly identical (even when comparing like part/model number klystrons), and so every card is specific to the individual unit. Klystrons have serial numbers on each of them to uniquely identify each unit, and for which manufacturers may (hopefully) have the performance characteristics in a database. If not, loss of the calibration card may be an insoluble problem, making the klystron unusable or perform marginally un-tuned.
Other precautions taken when tuning a klystron include using nonferrous tools. Some klystrons employ permanent magnets. If a technician uses ferrous tools, (which are ferromagnetic), and comes too close to the intense magnetic fields that contain the electron beam, such a tool can be pulled into the unit by the intense magnetic force, smashing fingers, injuring the technician, or damaging the unit. Special lightweight nonmagnetic (aka diamagnetic) tools made of beryllium alloy have been used for tuning U.S. Air Force klystrons.
Precautions are routinely taken when transporting klystron devices in aircraft, as the intense magnetic field can interfere with magnetic navigation equipment. Special overpacks are designed to help limit this field "in the field," and thus allow such devices to be transported safely.
In an optical klystron the cavities are replaced with undulators. Very high voltages are needed. The electron gun, the drift tube and the collector are still used.
Floating drift tube klystron
The floating drift tube klystron has a single cylindrical chamber containing an electrically isolated central tube. Electrically, this is similar to the two cavity oscillator klystron with a lot of feedback between the two cavities. Electrons exiting the source cavity are velocity modulated by the electric field as they travel through the drift tube and emerge at the destination chamber in bunches, delivering power to the oscillation in the cavity. This type of oscillator klystron has an advantage over the two-cavity klystron on which it is based. It only needs one tuning element to effect changes in frequency. The drift tube is electrically insulated from the cavity walls, and DC bias is applied separately. The DC bias on the drift tube may be adjusted to alter the transit time through it, thus allowing some electronic tuning of the oscillating frequency. The amount of tuning in this manner is not large and is normally used for frequency modulation when transmitting.
After the RF energy has been extracted from the electron beam, the beam is destroyed in a collector. Some klystrons include depressed collectors, which recover energy from the beam before collecting the electrons, increasing efficiency. Multistage depressed collectors enhance the energy recovery by "sorting" the electrons in energy bins.
Klystrons produce microwave power far in excess of that developed by solid state. In modern systems, they are used from UHF (100's of MHz) up through hundreds of gigahertz (as in the Extended Interaction Klystrons in the CloudSat satellite). Klystrons can be found at work in radar, satellite and wideband high-power communication (very common in television broadcasting and EHF satellite terminals), and high-energy physics (particle accelerators and experimental reactors). At SLAC, for example, klystrons are routinely employed which have outputs in the range of 50 megawatts (pulse) and 50 kilowatts (time-averaged) at frequencies nearing 3 GHz Popular Science's "Best of What's New 2007" included a company Global Resource Corporation using a klystron to convert the hydrocarbons in everyday materials, automotive waste, coal, oil shale, and oil sands into natural gas and diesel fuel.
Confusion with krytron
A misleadingly similarly named tube, the krytron, is used in simple switching applications. It has recently gained fame as a rapid switch which can be used in nuclear weapons to precisely detonate explosives at high speeds, in order to start the fission process. Krytrons have also been used in photocopiers, raising issues of war technology transfer to countries for items such as this, which have a "dual use."