Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation with ranging from one meter to one millimeter; with frequency between and .
The prefix in microwave is not meant to suggest a wavelength in the micrometer range. It indicates that microwaves are "small", compared to the used prior to microwave technology, in that they have shorter wavelengths. The boundaries between far infrared, terahertz radiation, microwaves, and ultra-high-frequency radio are fairly arbitrary and are used variously between different fields of study.
Microwaves travel by line-of-sight; unlike lower frequency radio waves they do not diffract around hills, follow the earth's surface as , or reflect from the ionosphere, so terrestrial microwave communication links are limited by the visual horizon to about 40 miles (64 km). At the high end of the band they are absorbed by gases in the atmosphere, limiting practical communication distances to around a kilometer. Microwaves are extremely widely used in modern technology. They are used for point-to-point communication links, , microwave radio relay networks, radar, satellite and spacecraft communication, medical diathermy and cancer treatment, remote sensing, radio astronomy, particle accelerators, spectroscopy, industrial heating, collision avoidance systems, garage door openers and keyless entry systems, and for cooking food in .
|> 62.1 kilo-|
|124 keV – 124 eV|
|124 eV – 3 eV|
|3.2 eV – 1.7 eV|
|1.7 eV – 1.24 milli|
|1.24 meV – 1.24 Micro-|
|1.24 Micro- – 12.4 Femto-|
The short of microwaves allow omnidirectional antennas for portable devices to be made very small, from 1 to 20 centimeters long, so microwave frequencies are widely used for such as , , and (Wifi) access for , and Bluetooth earphones. Antennas used include rubber ducky antennas, sleeve dipole antenna, , and increasingly the inverted F antenna (PIFA) used in cell phones.
Their short wavelength also allows narrow beams of microwaves to be produced by conveniently small antenna gain antennas from a half meter to 5 meters in diameter. Therefore, beams of microwaves are used for point-to-point communication links, and for radar. An advantage of narrow beams is that they don't interfere with nearby equipment using the same frequency, allowing frequency reuse by nearby transmitters. Parabolic ("dish") antennas are the most widely used directive antennas at microwave frequencies, but , and dielectric lens antennas are also used. Flat microstrip antennas are being increasingly used in consumer devices. Another directive antenna practical at microwave frequencies is the phased array, a computer-controlled array of antennas which produces a beam which can be electronically steered in different directions.
At microwave frequencies, the transmission lines which are used to carry lower frequency radio waves to and from antennas, such as coaxial cable and twin lead, have excessive power losses, so when low attenuation is required microwaves are carried by metal pipes called waveguides. Due to the high cost and maintenance requirements of waveguide runs, in many microwave antennas the output stage of the transmitter or the RF front end of the radio receiver is located at the antenna.
High-power microwave sources use specialized to generate microwaves. These devices operate on different principles from low-frequency vacuum tubes, using the ballistic motion of electrons in a vacuum under the influence of controlling electric or magnetic fields, and include the magnetron (used in ), klystron, traveling-wave tube (TWT), and gyrotron. These devices work in the density modulated mode, rather than the Electric current modulated mode. This means that they work on the basis of clumps of electrons flying ballistically through them, rather than using a continuous stream of electrons.
Low-power microwave sources use solid-state devices such as the field-effect transistor (at least at lower frequencies), , , and . Microwave Oscillator notes by Herley General Microwave Low-power sources are available as benchtop instruments, rackmount instruments, embeddable modules and in card-level formats. A maser is a solid state device which amplifies microwaves using similar principles to the laser, which amplifies higher frequency light waves.
All warm objects emit low level microwave black-body radiation, depending on their temperature, so in meteorology and remote sensing microwave radiometers are used to measure the temperature of objects or terrain.
Before the advent of fiber-optic transmission, most long-distance were carried via networks of microwave radio relay links run by carriers such as AT&T Long Lines. Starting in the early 1950s, frequency division multiplex was used to send up to 5,400 telephone channels on each microwave radio channel, with as many as ten radio channels combined into one antenna for the hop to the next site, up to 70 km away.
Wireless LAN protocols, such as Bluetooth and the IEEE 802.11 specifications used for Wi-Fi, also use microwaves in the 2.4 GHz ISM band, although 802.11a uses ISM band and U-NII frequencies in the 5 GHz range. Licensed long-range (up to about 25 km) Wireless Internet Access services have been used for almost a decade in many countries in the 3.5–4.0 GHz range. The FCC recently carved out spectrum for carriers that wish to offer services in this range in the U.S. — with emphasis on 3.65 GHz. Dozens of service providers across the country are securing or have already received licenses from the FCC to operate in this band. The WIMAX service offerings that can be carried on the 3.65 GHz band will give business customers another option for connectivity.
Metropolitan area network (MAN) protocols, such as WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) are based on standards such as IEEE 802.16, designed to operate between 2 and 11 GHz. Commercial implementations are in the 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz, 3.5 GHz and 5.8 GHz ranges.
Mobile Broadband Wireless Access (MBWA) protocols based on standards specifications such as IEEE 802.20 or ATIS/ANSI HC-SDMA (such as iBurst) operate between 1.6 and 2.3 GHz to give mobility and in-building penetration characteristics similar to mobile phones but with vastly greater spectral efficiency.
Some mobile phone networks, like GSM, use the low-microwave/high-UHF frequencies around 1.8 and 1.9 GHz in the Americas and elsewhere, respectively. DVB-SH and S-DMB use 1.452 to 1.492 GHz, while proprietary/incompatible satellite radio in the U.S. uses around 2.3 GHz for DARS.
Microwave radio is used in broadcasting and telecommunication transmissions because, due to their short wavelength, highly directional antennas are smaller and therefore more practical than they would be at longer wavelengths (lower frequencies). There is also more bandwidth in the microwave spectrum than in the rest of the radio spectrum; the usable bandwidth below 300 MHz is less than 300 MHz while many GHz can be used above 300 MHz. Typically, microwaves are used in television news to transmit a signal from a remote location to a television station from a specially equipped van. See broadcast auxiliary service (BAS), remote pickup unit (RPU), and studio/transmitter link (STL).
Most satellite communications systems operate in the C, X, Ka, or Ku bands of the microwave spectrum. These frequencies allow large bandwidth while avoiding the crowded UHF frequencies and staying below the atmospheric absorption of EHF frequencies. Satellite TV either operates in the C band for the traditional TVRO fixed satellite service or Ku band for direct-broadcast satellite. Military communications run primarily over X or Ku-band links, with Ka band being used for Milstar.
Radar is a radiolocation technique in which a beam of radio waves emitted by a transmitter bounces off an object and returns to a receiver, allowing the location, range, speed, and other characteristics of the object to be determined. The short wavelength of microwaves causes large reflections from objects the size of motor vehicles, ships and aircraft. Also, at these wavelengths, the high gain antennas such as parabolic antennas which are required to produce the narrow beamwidths needed to accurately locate objects are conveniently small, allowing them to be rapidly turned to scan for objects. Therefore, microwave frequencies are the main frequencies used in radar. Microwave radar is widely used for applications such as air traffic control, weather forecasting, navigation of ships, and speed limit enforcement. Long distance radars use the lower microwave frequencies since at the upper end of the band atmospheric absorption limits the range, but are used for short range radar such as collision avoidance systems.
A recently completed microwave radio telescope is the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, located at more than 5,000 meters (16,597 ft) altitude in Chile, observes the universe in the millimetre and submillimetre wavelength ranges. The world's largest ground-based astronomy project to date, it consists of more than 66 dishes and was built in an international collaboration by Europe, North America, East Asia and Chile.
A major recent focus of microwave radio astronomy has been mapping the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) discovered in 1964 by radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson. This faint background radiation, which fills the universe and is almost the same in all directions, is "relic radiation" from the Big Bang, and is one of the few sources of information about conditions in the early universe. Due to the expansion and thus cooling of the Universe, the originally high-energy radiation has been shifted into the microwave region of the radio spectrum. Sufficiently sensitive can detected the CMBR as a faint signal that is not associated with any star, galaxy, or other object.
Microwave heating is used in industrial processes for drying and curing products.
Many semiconductor processing techniques use microwaves to generate plasma physics for such purposes as reactive ion etching and plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD).
Microwave frequencies typically ranging from 110 – 140 GHz are used in and tokamak experimental fusion reactors to help heat the fuel into a plasma state. The upcoming ITER thermonuclear reactor is expected to range from 110–170 GHz and will employ electron cyclotron resonance heating (ECRH).
Microwaves can be used to transmit power over long distances, and post-World War II research was done to examine possibilities. NASA worked in the 1970s and early 1980s to research the possibilities of using solar power satellite (SPS) systems with large solar arrays that would beam power down to the Earth's surface via microwaves.
Less-than-lethal weaponry exists that uses millimeter waves to heat a thin layer of human skin to an intolerable temperature so as to make the targeted person move away. A two-second burst of the 95 GHz focused beam heats the skin to a temperature of at a depth of . The United States Air Force and Marines are currently using this type of active denial system in fixed installations. Silent Guardian Protection System. Less-than-Lethal Directed Energy Protection. raytheon.com
|+ Microwave frequency bands ! Designation !! Frequency range !! Wavelength range !! Typical uses|
|15 cm to 30 cm||military telemetry, GPS, mobile phones (GSM), amateur radio|
|7.5 cm to 15 cm||weather radar, surface ship radar, and some communications satellites (microwave ovens, microwave devices/communications, radio astronomy, mobile phones, wireless LAN, Bluetooth, ZigBee, GPS, amateur radio)|
|3.75 cm to 7.5 cm||long-distance radio telecommunications|
|25 mm to 37.5 mm||satellite communications, radar, terrestrial broadband, space communications, amateur radio, molecular rotational spectroscopy|
|16.7 mm to 25 mm||satellite communications, molecular rotational spectroscopy|
|11.3 mm to 16.7 mm||radar, satellite communications, astronomical observations, automotive radar, molecular rotational spectroscopy|
|5.0 mm to 11.3 mm||satellite communications, molecular rotational spectroscopy|
|6.0 mm to 9.0 mm||satellite communications, terrestrial microwave communications, radio astronomy, automotive radar, molecular rotational spectroscopy|
|5.0 mm to 7.5 mm|
|4.0 mm to 6.0 mm||millimeter wave radar research, molecular rotational spectroscopy and other kinds of scientific research|
|2.7 mm to 4.0 mm||satellite communications, millimeter-wave radar research, military radar targeting and tracking applications, and some non-military applications, automotive radar|
|2.1 mm to 3.3 mm||SHF transmissions: Radio astronomy, microwave devices/communications, wireless LAN, most modern radars, communications satellites, satellite television broadcasting, DBS, amateur radio|
|1.8 mm to 2.7 mm||EHF transmissions: Radio astronomy, high-frequency microwave radio relay, microwave remote sensing, amateur radio, directed-energy weapon, millimeter wave scanner|
P band is sometimes used for Ku Band. "P" for "previous" was a radar band used in the UK ranging from 250 to 500 MHz and now obsolete per IEEE Std 521.For other definitions see Letter Designations of Microwave Bands.
When radars were first developed at K band during World War II, it was not known that there was a nearby absorption band (due to water vapor and oxygen in the atmosphere). To avoid this problem, the original K band was split into a lower band, Ku, and upper band, Ka.Skolnik, Merrill I. (2001) Introduction to Radar Systems, Third Ed., p. 522, McGraw Hill. 1962 Edition full text
Microwave frequency can be measured by either electronic or mechanical techniques.
Frequency counters or high frequency heterodyne systems can be used. Here the unknown frequency is compared with harmonics of a known lower frequency by use of a low frequency generator, a harmonic generator and a mixer. Accuracy of the measurement is limited by the accuracy and stability of the reference source.
Mechanical methods require a tunable resonator such as an absorption wavemeter, which has a known relation between a physical dimension and frequency.
In a laboratory setting, Lecher lines can be used to directly measure the wavelength on a transmission line made of parallel wires, the frequency can then be calculated. A similar technique is to use a slotted waveguide or slotted coaxial line to directly measure the wavelength. These devices consist of a probe introduced into the line through a longitudinal slot, so that the probe is free to travel up and down the line. Slotted lines are primarily intended for measurement of the voltage standing wave ratio on the line. However, provided a standing wave is present, they may also be used to measure the distance between the nodes, which is equal to half the wavelength. Precision of this method is limited by the determination of the nodal locations.
During World War II, it was observed that individuals in the radiation path of radar installations experienced clicks and buzzing sounds in response to microwave radiation. This microwave auditory effect was thought to be caused by the microwaves inducing an electric current in the hearing centers of the brain.Philip L. Stocklin, , December 19, 1983 Research by NASA in the 1970s has shown this to be caused by thermal expansion in parts of the inner ear. In 1955 Dr. James Lovelock was able to reanimate rats frozen at 0 °C using microwave diathermy.
When injury from exposure to microwaves occurs, it usually results from dielectric heating induced in the body. Exposure to microwave radiation can produce by this mechanism, because the microwave heating denatures in the crystalline lens of the Human eye (in the same way that heat turns white and opaque). The lens and cornea of the eye are especially vulnerable because they contain no that can carry away heat. Exposure to heavy doses of microwave radiation (as from an oven that has been tampered with to allow operation even with the door open) can produce heat damage in other tissues as well, up to and including serious that may not be immediately evident because of the tendency for microwaves to heat deeper tissues with higher moisture content.
Eleanor R. Adair conducted microwave health research by exposing herself, animals and humans to microwave levels that made them feel warm or even start to sweat and feel quite uncomfortable. She found no adverse health effects other than heat.
Perhaps the first, documented, formal use of the term microwave occurred in 1931:
In 1943, the Hungarian engineer Zoltán Bay sent ultra-short radio waves to the moon, which, reflected from there, worked as a radar, and could be used to measure distance, as well as to study the moon.
Perhaps the first use of the word microwave in an astronomical context occurred in 1946 in an article "Microwave Radiation from the Sun and Moon" by Robert Dicke and Robert Beringer. This same article also made a showing in the New York Times issued in 1951. Ernst Weber pioneered microwave technologies.
In the history of electromagnetic theory, significant work specifically in the area of microwaves and their applications was carried out by researchers including:
|+ Specific work on microwaves ! Names !! Area of work|
|Smooth bore magnetron|
|Velocity-modulated electron beam (→ klystron tube)|