You are on page 1of 10

Superheterodyne Receivers - Microwave Encyclopedia - Microwaves101.


Superheterodyne receivers
Updated March 5, 2006 Click here to go to our main page on microwave receivers Click here to go to our main page on mixers Click here to go to our page on noise figure Click here to go to our page on low noise amplifiers New for March 2006! A superheterodyne receiver contains a combination of amplification with frequency mixing, and is by far the most popular architecture for a microwave receiver. To heterodyne means to mix two signals of different frequencies together, resulting in a "beat" frequency. Actually, two signals are always created, the sum frequency and the difference frequency. These are referred to as the two sidebands. The sum frequency is the upper sideband, and the difference frequency is the difference sideband. In most microwave receivers, the upper sideband is ignored. The word "superheterodyne" is often hyphenated to "super-heterodyne". A common contraction of the word is simply "superhet". Here's a clickable index to our super material on superhet! History of the superheterodyne receiver Common components in a superhet receiver Selected topics on superhet receivers

History of the superheterodyne receiver
The superheterodyne receiver is still the most popular microwave receiver, and it was invented more than eighty-five years ago (patented in 1918). Edwin Armstrong (see him in our Hall of Fame) was truly one of the great minds of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, he had a bad habit of inventing stuff independently of the corporate anti-Christ of the time, which was RCA (Radio Corporation of America); RCA and others pretty much ruined Armstrong's life. From this perspective, nothing's (1 of 5)06/08/2009 12:43:46 •.•

com/encyclopedia/receivers_superhet. Often.. An active limiter. This function can be accomplished by a passive or an active limiter. The superhet solved this problem for all time by using frequency conversion that was controlled by a local oscillator.microwaves101. go to our book page and click on the link to Empire of the Air. By tuning the LO frequency. Preselector filter This component restricts the frequency band that is permitted to enter the receiver. Common components of a superheterodyne receiver The block diagram below shows typical components of a superhet microwave receiver. which at least offered some gain to boost far-away signals. This characteristic is known as receiver selectivity. big companies ruin many engineers' lives today. A passive limiter doesn't need to be commanded.Microwaves101. Stuff after the LNA doesn't have such a drastic affect. As an engineer you'd best remember your place at the bottom of the corporate food-chain or you'll be living in a cardboard house behind the Circle K pretty soon. but were prone to drift. must be commanded somehow to protect the LNA. the RF frequency that you received was thereby tuned. To learn more about the history of radio. waveguide components are used in front of the LNA because it offers the lowest loss available. because loss adds directly to noise changed. rather than try to filter out unwanted channels at the RF input. but stolen by greedy RCA). Limiter (receiver protector) This component is what protects the LNA if a stray high-power signal makes its way into the RF input.Superheterodyne Receivers . This is often the case of a colocated transmit/receive system such as a radar. radio listeners had to constantly play with a set of knobs on a radio to keep locked on to radio programs of the day. Prior attempts at amplifying radio signals included the regenerative and super-regenerative receivers (both invented by Armstrong. It turns out it is much easier to control the LO frequency and filter out unwanted channels at IF. Don't ever think your services are as valuable as the work of more deserving corporate lawyers! But we digress.• . The pre-LNA components all have a direct affect on noise figure.Microwave Encyclopedia . Prior to the superhet receiver. especially in arguments over inventions. also known as a blanking switch. but everything must be taken into account in maximizing dynamic range. it http://www..cfm (2 of 5)06/08/2009 12:43:46 •. so low-loss is a key characteristic of these parts.

Image rejection filter Used to reduce image noise foldover. The noise figure usually does not degrade by much unless the gain of the device is reduced by several automatically reduces the signal whenever it is hit with enough power.microwaves101. The power handling of the LNA means how much power can it be hit with before it is permanently damaged.cfm (3 of 5)06/08/2009 12:43:46 •. only a small change in gain can result from overdriving it. Typical MMIC LNAs can handle from 10 milliwatts to half a watt. Places that are notorious for VSWR problems is the mixer/filter interfaces. Low noise amplifier Nothing is more critical to receiver performance than the The power that leaks out of the receiver protection circuit must be specified and measured under both pulsed conditions (spike leakage) and CW condition (flat leakage). Clean-up filter The cleanup IF filter's purpose is to remove unwanted high frequency signals such as the RF and LO.Superheterodyne Receivers . and could use low-cost lumped components (inductors and capacitors). It is usually a low-pass filter (LPF). Often an amplifier stage is put in the LO path. Mixer The device that converts the incoming RF frequency to intermediate frequency is called a mixer. Designing an LNA for high-power use is called "hardening". This is the active component that increases the power of the received signal (it produces gain). When signals are strong enough to saturate the LNA. Fixed pads You should always design a receiver with extra gain.• . which could cause additional distortion products when they pass through the IF amplifier.Microwave Encyclopedia . the attenuator can be switched in to reduce the signal strength to the LNA. An obvious advantage is that by reducing to http://www. gain can be purchased for less than 10 cents per decibel! LO amp The local oscillator signal must be stable (time-invariant) and maintained at a fixed or minimum power for the mixer to work properly. The damage to an LNA is not necessarily catastrophic. Advantages of superheterodyne receivers The advantages of superheterodyne receiver are many.Microwaves101. Switchable attenuator A pre-LNA switchable attenuator can be used to increase the dynamic range. then you can used attenuators here and there to "pad" out poor VSWRs. At one GHz. and kept in compression to reduce variation in LO power coming from the exciter. IF amp This is where gain can be added to the receiver without high cost.

Having a higher IF1 frequency splits the RF and image frequencies far apart. lower frequency components can be used.003 GHz.microwaves101. that is an image rejection mixer. there are two RF frequencies that will produce the exact same IF frequency. IF gain at 1 GHz is cheap as dirt. if your RF frequency was 10 GHz. and IF2. Because a mixer creates both sum and difference frequencies.Microwave Encyclopedia . because the desired bandwidth is much higher after the signal is mixed Quite often a high performance receiver has two downconversion steps. RF gain at 40 GHz is expensive. Image frequency A mixer is used in a receiver to create the IF frequency. Thus a 12 GHz RF signal mixed with a 10 GHz LO will produce a lower sideband of 2 GHz and an upper sideband of 22 GHz. The second advantage is in the superior sensitivity that we almost take for granted. Sidebands The sidebands of a mixed signal occur at the sum and difference of the RF and LO signals. The unwanted signal frequency is called the image frequency. in order to filter out the image.cfm (4 of 5)06/08/2009 12:43:46 •. There are advantages to the second downconversion approach. and your IF was 3 MHz. This is for all intents impossible. cost is proportional to frequency. LO2.Microwaves101. Mixer spurs (MxN products) This topic is coming soon! Image frequency A mixer is used in a superhet receiver to create the IF frequency. IF1. Filtering out unwanted signals at IF is a much easier job than filtering them out at RF. it is quite easy to filter out incoming noise at 13 GHz. and in general. But if your IF frequency was 3 GHz. Selected topics on superheterdyne receivers Single down-conversion versus double downconversion A receiver that has only one frequency conversion device (mixer) is said to be of singledownconversion variety. For example. LO1. There is a solution to image noise no matter how close the image is to the RF. An example: RF is 12 GHz LO is 10 GHz lower frequency. In this case we would label the frequencies RF.• .Superheterodyne Receivers . Further advantage in that many components can be designed for a fixed frequency (and even shared between different receiver designs). Because a mixer creates both sum and difference frequencies. you'd need a filter that passes 10 GHz yet rejects 10. which is easier and cheaper than designing wideband components. by corollary. which makes an easier task of preventing image noise foldover.

and minus 2 GHz. It's time for a Microwaves101 rule of thumb! Twenty dB of image rejection is about all you need before you can neglect image noise. it doesn't do the Upper beat frequency is 22 GHz Lower beat frequency is 2 GHz Image frequency is 8 GHz The RF passes through the mixer. there is no such thing as a negative frequency! Image noise foldover The two sidebands of a receiver can contribute to its signal-to noise ratio. Home | Virtual Lobby | Microwave Encyclopedia | Microwave Calculators | Unknown Editor | Acronym Dictionary Message Boards | Cool Links | Microwave Mortuary | What's New? | Search Our Site | Download Area |Contact http://www. Worst case.Superheterodyne Receivers .Microwave Encyclopedia . Image noise foldover can be prevented in two ways: use an image filter. What's up with this? This is because an 8 GHz RF signal will mix to 18 GHz. We don't have to tell you that the IF is 2 GHz.microwaves101. You are visitor number 16651 to this page.• . If you place it in front of the LNA. All content copyright P-N Designs. The image frequency that would produce a 2 GHz IF is 8 GHz. and is discarded by filtering the IF (usually a low pass filter is all that is required).Microwaves101. and two possible outputs are (sum and difference) are 22 GHz and 2 GHz. do we? The 22 GHz is the upper (5 of 5)06/08/2009 12:43:46 •. image noise foldover can degrade receiver noise figure by 3 dB. Inc. Guess what? the minus sign is unimportant. or use an image-rejection mixer. The image rejection filter is located between the LNA and the mixer.

just for microwave engineers like you. Check out our what's new page to see what's been added within the previous . Please sign up for our spam-free MW101Stuff newsletter to stay informed about what's happening at Microwaves101.cfm (1 of 2)06/08/2009 12:43:48 •.com/index. your numero-uno source for microwave information since the previous unenlightened century. Read the Microwaves101 mission statement. Learn more about the site at our contact page. The Man Who Never Returned if you ride the "T"! Read about this local legend and 1948 campaign song on Wikipedia. See you in Boston. It's safe.Microwaves101.. we'll be there! Get your CharlieCard here.A practical resource covering the fundamental principles of microwave design Front page updated May 31. and it works! Results may vary. http://www. so we'll all be on the same page-and-a-half! The Kingston Trio 2009 IEEE IMS Symposium starts June 7. We're building a practical web resource covering the fundamental principles of microwave design.. 2009 Welcome to Microwaves101. Watch out for the Charlie.microwaves101.• . effective. all natural.

then look around! What you won't find here: q q q q q Pipe-smoking academic eggheads pondering bookmark the site.. nerdly theoretical derivations to put you to sleep! But we do offer links to practical resource covering the fundamental principles of microwave design What you'll find here: q q q q q q q q q The basic concepts of microwave design theory in hypertext encyclopedic format! Practical rules of thumb and other sage advice from Microwave O. Thanks for stopping at Microwaves101.s! Useful microwave formulae presented in enter-and-click calculator formats! The best microwave acronym and abbreviation dictionary anywhere! Who was that masked man? The Unknown Editor needs to be placed under observation! A virtual lobby filled with the best microwave vendors who want to be your friends! A message board for technical and not-so-technical interchange! An easy way to win a cool Microwaves101 pocketknife! Tons more great stuff.• . Dude! You are visitor number 352386 to this page.cfm (2 of 2)06/08/2009 12:43:48 •.. Pictures of potatoes with arrows poking into them supporting any form of calculus! Yuppie daytrader information spotlighting the latest microwave millionaire! Greed-induced salary surveys to inflate your ego while you avoid real work! Anybody complaining about anything that is "not fair" or politically incorrect! Please visit our sponsors' websites for more information on microwave products.F. Home | Virtual Lobby | Microwave Encyclopedia | Microwave Calculators | Unknown Editor | Acronym Dictionary Message Boards | Cool Links | Microwave Mortuary | What's New? | Search Our Site | Download Area |Contact http://www.Microwaves101. Like to become a technical contributor? Inquire at Thinking of becoming a sponsor? Inquire at Webmaster@Microwaves101.

750 kHz and 1 kHz. Thanks! RF Connections is a consulting and manufacturer's representation company recently formed by Ruth Fawson in Tampa. Inc.000 page views per day. Matrix Test Equipment. 8AM-5PM MST and she'll hook you up! Below are the forward-thinking supporters of Microwaves101. RF connections is sponsor of our microwave connector page. and prime power from 90 to 240 volts can be is THE premier website for technical microwave content (>10. Signal generators can accommodate 50 or 75 ohms systems. and compare them to us. and not counting the message board). We want you to share the magic by becoming a client. 15. as well as more affordable solutions. Go ahead and ask a traditional microwave trade magazine how many page views their web site generates each day. Internal modulators provide 100% square wave. an elite group indeed. which is getting thinner and thinner with each issue. Many of you may already know of Ruth's expertise in connectors .com.microwaves101. or heck. Check out our Sponsorship page.Virtual Lobby . 2009 Attention. If your company doesn't have distortion measurement Virtual Lobby Updated April 14. microwave virtual vendors: Fully automated equipment racks with easy-to use software drivers are available. They'll also help you upgrade your existing equipment. offers various http://www. Matrix Test Equipment offers turnkey test solutions for cross-modulation and other types of distortion measurements. just pick up the phone and call her at (520) 749-0747.• .she's been participating in our message boards and serving as our unofficial connector "Empress" for several years now.cfm (1 of 3)06/08/2009 12:44:28 •. Florida. or email Brenda for details. We'll charge you less per year than you pay per month for a tiny ad in the paper issue of Microwave Journal.

com/content/virtuallobby. They have contributed and sponsored a three-page Microwaves101 tutorial on radar cross-section reduction. Part two is on radar cross-section physics. and their software has earned a solid reputation as the world's most accurate commercial planar EM analysis package for single and multi-layer planar circuits and antennas. ARC Technologies of Amesbury Massachusetts is the leading supplier of microwave absorbing materials for commercial and defense applications.microwaves101. Today with the internet. Sonnet has sponsored a page on EM analysis. Note: this story reflects how it was in the old days. Part three is on radar absorbers and absorption mechanism.cfm (2 of 3)06/08/2009 12:44:28 •.Microwaves101.• . New York. Matrix Test Equipment has sponsored a Microwaves101 page on distortion measurements. at a daily rate or for ongoing large volume testing at an affordable price per part. and radar absorbing structures (RAS).com flexible approaches to perform this service at their Middlesex NJ site. radomes. of Syracuse. Sonnet Software Inc. They've been developing 3D planar EM software since 1983. cold-calling everyone in the lobby phone book. check it out! Part one is on fundamentals of electromagnetic waves. business is much easier.. composites. is dedicated completely to the development of commercial EM software.Virtual Lobby . when manufacturer's reps swarmed around large electronics companies. ARC Technologies also offers dielectric materials. While providing a complete range of standard absorber products.. and sites like Microwaves101 can help you locate individuals who are truly http://www. Contact them at (978) 388-2993 to discuss your needs. The Lobby Lizard story.

The Boss doesn't even know your name. He's out in the lobby. Then. they took us to Happy Hour!) Just kidding. Home | Virtual Lobby | Microwave Encyclopedia | Microwave Calculators | Unknown Editor | Acronym Dictionary Message Boards | Cool Links | Microwave Mortuary | What's New? | Search Our Site | Download Area |Contact http://www. Don't improve his self-esteem by thanking him for lunch. and return to Microwaves101. You'll recognize him.. the rest of us don't want you to raise the interested in your products and not waste anyone's time.Virtual Lobby . deep-six all of the paper catalogs and CDs he gave you on the way back to your office. Don't panic! Tell him you are busy. you have no friends. That way. You are visitor number 31267 to this page. on either side of the supply chain. Wrong number? Worse than that. he's the fat dude sweating heavily in the leisure suit. All content copyright P-N Designs. you will be able to order a few cocktails while he bores you with his product line.cfm (3 of 3)06/08/2009 12:44:28 •.. Inc.• .microwaves101. but might be able to do and he wants to know how many "asynchronous phase-locked inverters" you will be needing. it's a microwave vendor. a lobby lizard. Must be a wrong number. he has a thousand catalogs...Microwaves101. Then suddenly the phone rings. where we will put you in touch with only the best vendors ( You've been at work for only two weeks.