Friday, August 26, 2011

Everything you always wanted to know about klystrons and traveling wave tubes (but were afraid to ask)

Most of the time this blog is about embedded electronics, but if I come across something interesting that is electronic but not directly related I will talk about it here too. Therefore, this time I will write about a book with the impressive title: Klystrons, Traveling Wave Tubes, Magnetrons, Crossed-Field Amplifiers, and Gyrotrons It is written by A.S. Gilmour, Jr. of the State University of New York, Buffalo and the book is edited by Artech House. The editor presents it as: The culmination of the author’s 50 years of industry experience, this authoritative resource offers engineers a thorough understanding of the operations and major classes of microwave tubes.

This field of electronics definitely has the coolest named devices of the industry and I sure would like to use a gyro-twystron once in my life, just so that I can say I did. Controlled by an Arduino maybe? Anyway, I’ve read this book and found it, to my surprise, quite fascinating. 800 pages about electron guns, exotic materials to make cathodes with, magnetic and electric fields and incredible amounts of power, actually this book is more about physics than about electronics. What I really liked about it was the mix of well established theory and experimental physics. The author does a pretty good job, as far as I can judge, at relating the complete history of magnetrons and the like. From the initial idea to the many tweaks that took the devices to where they are now, everything is described and it all feels very hands-on and experimental.

For the people that have to really study this material the book contains a wealth of drawings, diagrams, formulas and equations with derivations. I don’t think you will be able to actually construct a working megawatt gyrotron just by reading this book, it lacks the electronics, but it definitely will get you started. If you don’t care for the math, you can skip it all. Since the book introduces many terms the reader may be unfamiliar with it includes a glossary at the end. Your knowledge of vacuum pumps is a bit rusty? Read appendix B on vacuum technology. Appendix C gets you up to speed with magnetics.

I have only one negative comment about this book: the illustration the text is talking about is almost always on the back side of the page you are reading. Since there are many drawings you keep flipping back and forth between the drawing and its description.

This book does not introduce new theory but it is bound to become a standard reference for the serious high-power RF/radar engineer who has always a klystron lying around on his desk.

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