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Definition

waveguide

A waveguide is an electromagnetic feed line used in microwave communications, broadcasting, and radar installations. A waveguide consists of a rectangular or cylindrical metal tube or pipe. The electromagnetic field propagates lengthwise. Waveguides are most often used with horn antenna s and dish antenna s.

An electromagnetic field can propagate along a waveguide in various ways. Two common modes are known as transverse-magnetic (TM) and transverse-electric (TE). In TM mode, the magnetic lines of flux are perpendicular to the axis of the waveguide. In TE mode, the electric lines of flux are perpendicular to the axis of the waveguide. Either mode can provide low loss and high efficiency as long as the interior of the waveguide is kept clean and dry.

To function properly, a waveguide must have a certain minimum diameter relative to the wavelength of the signal. If the waveguide is too narrow or the frequency is too low (the wavelength is too long), the electromagnetic fields cannot propagate. At any frequency above the cutoff (the lowest frequency at which the waveguide is large enough), the feed line will work well, although certain operating characteristics vary depending on the number of wavelengths in the cross section.

This was last updated in September 2005

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