Q:

What are microwave measurements and how are they used?

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Quick Answer

Microwave measurements determine the frequency of a signal between approximately 1 and 100 gigahertz, which is the microwave range on the electromagnetic spectrum. Microwave measurements have a broad range of applications that include wireless communication and broadcasting (radio, television, Internet and satellite), ovens, radar and scientific research.

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Full Answer

Microwave frequencies are measured using frequency counters (electronic technique) or physical resonators (mechanical technique).

Frequency counters use a tuneable oscillating circuit to generate a frequency, usually by sending an electric signal through a quartz crystal. The frequency generated by the crystal acts as a reference, which is then tuned to match the microwave frequency being measured. This technique is also referred to as beat frequency detection.

Physical resonators, such as absorption wave meters, use a coil of wire attached to a circuit to measure frequency. Instead of tuning to the resonant frequency, the coil, which is usually attached to the outside of the instrument, is brought near the microwave frequency, generating a DC voltage that is represented to the technician on a galvanometer. Some mechanical frequency meters use silver plated tuneable pistons instead of a wire coil. The pistons are moved in and out of one another until the microwave frequency is matched, which is then displayed on a rotating scale on the surface of the device.

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