The Magnetron

The MAGNETRON , shown in the figure below, view A, is a self-contained microwave oscillator that operates differently from the linear-beam tubes, such as the twt and the klystron. View B is a simplified drawing of the magnetron. CROSSED-ELECTRON and MAGNETIC fields are used in the magnetron to produce the high-power output required in radar and communications equipment.


View A: Magnetron


View B: Magnetron

The magnetron is classed as a diode because it has no grid. A magnetic field located in the space between the plate (anode) and the cathode serves as a grid. The plate of a magnetron does not have the same physical appearance as the plate of an ordinary electron tube.

Since conventional inductive- capacitive (LC) networks become impractical at microwave frequencies, the plate is fabricated into a cylindrical copper block containing resonant cavities which serve as tuned circuits. The magnetron base differs considerably from the conventional tube base. The magnetron base is short in length and has large diameter leads that are carefully sealed into the tube and shielded.

The cathode and filament are at the center of the tube and are supported by the filament leads. The filament leads are large and rigid enough to keep the cathode and filament structure fixed in position. The output lead is usually a probe or loop extending into one of the tuned cavities and coupled into a waveguide or coaxial line.

The plate structure, shown in the next figure below, is a solid block of copper. The cylindrical holes around its circumference are resonant cavities. A narrow slot runs from each cavity into the central portion of the tube dividing the inner structure into as many segments as there are cavities. Alternate segments are strapped together to put the cavities in parallel with regard to the output. The cavit

ies control the output frequency. The straps are circular, metal bands that are placed across the top of the block at the entrance slots to the cavities. Since the cathode must operate at high power, it must be fairly large and must also be able to withstand high operating temperatures. It must also have good emission characteristics, particularly under return bombardment by the electrons. This is because most of the output power is provided by the large number of electrons that are emitted when high-velocity electrons return to strike the cathode.

The cathode is indirectly heated and is constructed of a high- emission material. The open space between the plate and the cathode is called the INTERACTION SPACE. In this space the electric and magnetic fields interact to exert force upon the electrons.


Cutaway view of a magnetron.

The magnetic field is usually provided by a strong, permanent magnet mounted around the magnetron so that the magnetic field is parallel with the axis of the cathode. The cathode is mounted in the center of the interaction space.


Magnetron theory of operation is based on the motion of electrons under the influence of combined electric and magnetic fields. The following information presents the laws governing this motion.

The direction of an electric field is from the positive electrode to the negative electrode. The law governing the motion of an electron in an electric field (E field) states:

The force exerted by an electric field on an electron is proportional to the strength of the field. Electrons tend to move from a point of negative potential toward a positive potential.

This is shown in the figure below. In other words, electrons tend to move against the E field. When an electron is being accelerated by an E field, as shown in the figure below, energy is taken from the field by the electron.


Electron motion in an electric field.

The law of motion of an electron in a magnetic field (H field) states:

The force exerted on an electron in a magnetic field is at right angles to both the field and the path of the electron. The direction of the force is such that the electron trajectories are clockwise when viewed in the direction of the magnetic field.

This is shown in the next figure below.

Electron motion in a magnetic field

Electron motion in a magnetic field.

In the figure above, assume that a south pole is below the figure and a north pole is above the figure so that the magnetic field is going into the paper. When an electron is moving through space, a magnetic field builds around the electron just as it would around a wire when electrons are flowing through a wire.

In the figure above the magnetic field around the moving electron adds to the permanent magnetic field on the left side of the electron's path and subtracts from the permanent magnetic field on the right side. This action weakens the field on the right side; therefore, the electron path bends to the right (clockwise). If the strength of the magnetic field is increased, the path of the electron will have a sharper bend. Likewise, if the velocity of the electron increases, the field around it increases and the path will bend more sharply.

A schematic diagram of a basic magnetron is shown in the figure below, view A. The tube consists of a cylindrical plate with a cathode placed along the center axis of the plate. The tuned circuit is made up of cavities in which oscillations take place and are physically located in the plate.

When no magnetic field exists, heating the cathode results in a uniform and direct movement of the field from the cathode to the plate, as illustrated in view B. However, as the magnetic field surrounding the tube is increased, a single electron is affected.

We will discuss this single electron is affected in the next tutorial.


View A: Basic magnetron SIDE-VIEW.


View B: Basic magnetron END-VIEW-OMITTING-MAGNETS.

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