Overview of RF Measurement Equipment like Power Attenuators and RF Switches


Numerous technologies use radio frequency waves in order to operate. There are many applications where RF energy is used such as radar, microwave, military operations, traffic control, telecommunications, etc. Before products used for these sectors enter the market, they need to be properly tested to ensure that they do not malfunction while they are being used. Most times, these equipments form integral parts of the systems, wherein they are utilized. Before businesses invest in such equipment, they need to have fundamental knowledge about the working, types, and other such details in association with the devices. For this purpose, the following points explain some details about two RF measurement equipment components – power attenuators and RF switches.

RF Switch

RF switches are components that are mainly used to change the direction of a radio frequency signal (Digi Key, CHOOSING AN RF SWITCH, 2012). If this component acts in both directions, it is called to be bidirectional. The switch units always require power supply to work, and hence are known as active devices.

Insertion loss: With regards to RF switches, insertion loss is a power loss that a passing signal experiences while passing through the circuit. This loss can occur if the length of a transmission line through which the signal passes, is greater than 0.01 than that of the signal wavelength (Digi Key, CHOOSING AN RF SWITCH, 2012). Thus, insertion loss can mainly be used to measure the power loss or voltage attenuation of a signal that takes place at the particular frequency.

RF Power Attenuator

In the simplest sense, RF attenuators are used to reduce the level of a signal while it passes through a circuit. This is mainly required when the signal level is too high. An attenuator can also be used to provide an accurate impedance match, so that signal levels can be controlled properly (radio-electronics.com, RF ATTENUATOR BASICS AND TUTORIAL, nd). RF attenuators are used in a variety of applications.

Types of Power Attenuators

Fixed RF attenuators – These components have a specific value which does not change. They are available in a variety of forms and sizes. They may be available in the form of small in-line items, or also in the form of devices that are look similar to connector adapters.

Variable RF attenuators – For power termination and reduction processes, variable RF attenuators are generally used in applications where it is necessary to continuously vary the level of a signal. These units provide a level change that is present in a continuous manner. This is mainly done by providing an analogue voltage to the input core line. These attenuators are mainly used when maintaining signal accuracy is not the main aim to implement in the devices.

Switched RF attenuators

These devices are mainly used in systems for testing purposes wherein signal levels may need to be changed. These are available in the form of small boxes with switches that denote signal level changes. These attenuators may be incorporated in testing equipment to measure signal generator output.

Overall, RF switches and power attenuators are two important components of RF measurement equipment, which can be used for various applications. Before investing in these devices, businesses should get knowledgeable about crucial aspects by referring to reputed dealers in this sector.

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