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COMSOL Multiphysics Modeling and Simulation of

Traveling Wave Tube Amplifiers

Laxma R. Billa, M. Nadeem Akram and Xuyuan Chen*

Department of Micro and Nano-system Technology,

University College Southeast Norway, Borre-3184, Norway

Abstract An analysis of slow-wave structure (SWS) for

vacuum-electron traveling wave tube is carried out using
COMSOL Multiphysics software. A helix SWS is used as an
example to model and perform fully coupled 3D electromagnetics
cold-simulations and beam-wave interaction hot-simulations. The
preliminary COMSOL simulation results show good agreement
with calculations from CST studio software.

Keywords COMSOL Multiphysics; Helix; Slow-wave

structure; Traveling wave tube

Traveling wave tube is a prominent RF signal amplifier for
high-power and wide-bandwidth useful from microwave to
terahertz frequency range [1]. The design and analysis of
complex slow-wave structures (SWS) for efficient tube
performance relies on computer simulation software such as Figure 1. Schematic model of a unit period of helix slow-wave
CST studio, MAGIC3D [2] [3]. These software solve the structure.
Maxwells equations and the particle motion equations in fully
coupled way in the transient time-domain. COMSOL all the conductive surfaces with real conductive value of
Multiphysics [4] is a commercial finite element software 5.8107 (.m)-1 . For the APBN support rods, a relative
package designed to solve wide range of physical problems. To permittivity of 5.2 and a loss tangent of 1.510-4 is used. The
solve the coupled electromagnetic and electron particle physics mesh for all domains of the geometry is adaptively refined until
in the traveling wave tube devices, the authors have made an required accuracy is obtained.
attempt using the COMSOL Multiphysicss package modules.
In order to extract the cold-test parameters such as dispersion, B. Hot-test modeling
interaction impedance, and conductive and dielectric losses, the For the fully coupled beam-wave interaction simulations,
frequency domain electromagnetic physics of the software is we utilised transient electromagnetic waves module and
used. For the fully coupled hot-simulation, time-domain charged particle tracking module. The complete helix TWT
transient simulation is performed. structure has total length of 134 mm. A coaxial waveguide type
is designed for both the input port and output port of the helix
II. COMSOL MULTIPHYSICS MODELING OF HELIX TWT SWS. The characteristics impedance of the coaxial waveguide
is calculated according to the modeled waveguide dimensions.
A. Cold-test modeling
1) Electromagnetic Wave: The transient study of
Fig. 1 shows the schematic model of the unit periodic of a
Electromagnetic wave physics solves the time-domain
helix slow-wave structure. The geometry includes the helix
having an inner radius of 2.2 mm, width of 1.45 mm, thickness Maxwells wave equations. The coupling of charge particle
of 0.2 mm and pitch of 2.68 mm, three APBN support rods tracing physics to the Electromagnetic wave physics is done
each having width and height as 1.14 mm and 2.8 mm, using the Weak contribution node in COMSOL Multiphysics.
respectively, and outer conducting barrel [2]. A frequency It defines the exertion of a space charge of electron particles
domain electromagnetic interface physics in radio frequency on the electromagnetic field. A coaxial lumped port boundary
module of COMSOL Multiphysics is used on a unit period of condition is assinged to the input port with continuous wave
the helix. Floquet periodic boundary condition on both axial excitation and to the outport port for observing the output
sides and perfect electric boundary conditions on the surfaces wave.
of helix and conducting barrel are applied to get the 2) Charge Particle Tracing: The Charge particle tracing
Eigenfrequencies and the field components under loss-free
physics is available in the Particle tracing module of
condition. In order to calculate both the conductive and
dielectric losses, impedance boundary conditions are applied to COMSOL Multiphysics. It is employed to model the

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trajectories of electron particles under the influence of
electromagnetic forces in a fully coupled manner. A circular
metal geometry is modeled as cathode for defining an emitting
surface of electron particles. The properties of electron mass
and charge are represented by Particle property node. Inlet
node specifies the emission of electron particles in normal
direction from the cathode boundary into the calculation
domain. Particle release time and number of particles per
release can be set in properties of this node, thus defining the
current of the beam. The initial velocity vector of the particles
can be defined as well. The particles are emitted transiently to
get the desired current. A longitudinal magnetic field for the
focusing the electron trajectory is defined with Magnetic force
node. Space charge density calculation node is used to include
the space charge effect in the interaction analysis. When the Figure 2. Dispersion plot of the dominant mode helix SWS.
particles hit the conductive boundaries, it is assumed to
disappear without generating any secondary electrons using
Wall node. The coupling of solution of Electromagnetic wave
physics to the Charge particle tracing physics is done with
both the Electric force and Magnetic force nodes. The Electric
force node specifies the Lorentz force F=eE (e=charge of
electron) of electric field (E) computed from the
Electromagnetic wave physics exerted on the electron
particles. Similarly, the Magnetic force F=qvB (v=velocity
of electron) node specifies Lorentz force of magnetic field (B)
computed from Electromagnetic wave physics influence on
the electron particles.
To verify the modeling and analysis of helix TWT using the
COMSOL Multiphysics software, all the results are compared
Figure 3. Normalized phase velocity of the dominant mode of the
with calculation from CST studio software taken as reference. helix SWS.
A. Cold-test Parameters
The Eigenfrequency study of frequency domain
Electromagnetic wave physics is performed on the unit period
of helix with sweeping the wavenumber between Floquet
boundaries. The wavenumber is defined as a function of phase
advance between periodic boundaries. The Eigenfrequency and
field components for corresponding phases are obtained. Fig. 2
shows the dispersion plot of the dominant mode of the helix
SWS frequency ranging from 0.3 GHz to 8.5 GHz. The phase
velocity is calculated for the mode of the dominant mode,
as shown in fig. 3. An interaction impedance (K) of the SWS is
given by:
E zn
K (1)
2E 2n Pwg
Figure 4. On-axis interaction impedance of the helix SWS.

Where Ezn, n, Pwg represent the spatial harmonic longitudinal p

electric field coefficient, spatial harmonic propagation constant 1
and time-average power flow, respectively. In the post
Ez n
P0 E z e j(En ) z dz (2)
processing of COMSOL Multiphysics simulation, Ezn is
obtained by spatial Fourier analysis of longitudinal electric And loss-free Pwg is calculated by integrating the time average
field over the on-axis pitch length P as given in equation (2). power flow across transvers section at the periodic boundary.
According to the equation (1) the on-axis interaction
impedance for fundamental mode of helix SWS is plotted in

Figure 5. Conductive and dielectric losses of the helix SWS. Figure 7. Voltage signal at the output port.

fig. 4. The same equation (1) is applied to calculate the electron particles is 0.16c (c is speed of light in free space), and
interaction impedance while post processing in CST the beam currnet is 10mA. The interaction of the RF signal and
microwave studio. The loss () including both the conductive electron particle trajectory is illustrated in fig. 6 as a snapshot
loss and dielectric loss is evaluated in the post processing of at t=2.1ns. The bunching of electron particles and the amplified
COMSOL simulation using equation (3) in dB per period. signal at the output port are observed. Fig. 7 shows voltage
signal at the output port of the helix TWT. A small discrepancy
of the obtained amplified output signal from both the
D (3) COMSOL Multiphysics simulations and CST particle-in-cell
2 Pwg simulations is observed. This may be due to the difference in
where Pcl is the power lost in the lossy boundaries. But, in solver time steps of both softwares, difference in mesh size and
case of CST simulations losses are calculated using equation implemntation of the absorbing boundary conditions at the two
(4) in dB per period. ports.
The preliminary simulations show that COMSOL software
Z can be useful for analyzing traveling wave tubes, both for cold-
D (4) test and hot-test simulations. Moreover, coupled thermal
analysis of high-power TWT device can also be performed
where is the angular Eigenfrequency, Q is the perturbed Q- using the heat-transfer module of COMSOL. That will be
factor and Vg is the group velocity. Fig. (5) shows the loss of performed in future work.
helix SWS in dB per period. The small discrepancy between
COMSOL Multiphysics and CST simulation results is due to
the different solving methods used for simulation of lossy
boundaries conditions. This project is supported by the Ministry of Education and
Research of Norway. The Research Council of Norway is
B. Hot-test Parameteres acknowledged for the support to the Norwegian Micro- and
An 8.855 GHz continuous sinusoidal wave with 50 mW Nano-fabrication facility, NorFab (197411/V30) and the
power is excited at the coaxial input port. The initial velocity of Norwegian Ph.D. Network on Nanotechnology for
Microsystems, Nano-Network (221860/F40).

[1] J.H.Booske , Vacuum electronic high power terahertz sources,
IEEE Trans. THz Sci. Technol., vol. 1, no.1, pp.54-75, Sep. 2011.
[2] CST STUDIO SUIT-2014, 3D EM Simulation software. Computer
Simulation Technology.
[3] Magnetic Insulation Code (MAGIC), Available: .
[4] Comsol, COMSOL Multiphysics: Version 5.2.

Figure 6. Electron particle trajectory (velocity) of the beam at 2.1 ns time

step of helix TWT, computed in COMSOL Multiphysics. Bunching of the
electron beam is visible.