How Spatial Combining Works: New Levels of Power for TWTA Replacements

Courtesy of Qorvo

Replacing legacy systems with next-generation technology isn’t always a one-to-one fix. This blog describes spatial combining, why it’s important for sensitive equipment like electronic countermeasures (ECMs) and how it helps achieve the highest levels of power available.

Power in the Past

Historically, vacuum tube amplifiers were used for all amplifiers, from audio frequency to RF and microwave, as well as for lighting and the displays for our television sets. Traveling wave tube amplifiers (TWTAs) have continued to provide high-power amplification at microwave frequencies over broad bandwidths.

But vacuum tubes, typically in the multi-kV range, have lower reliability than solid-state devices, with low-voltage power supplies, and over time, the supply of vacuum tubes and the expertise to manufacture them have decreased. As a result, most vacuum tubes have been replaced with solid-state alternatives, except in applications such as microwave ovens and electronic warfare (EW), which required vacuum tubes to generate the higher power levels necessary for equipment like ECM jamming transmitters.

But power combining techniques now make it possible to achieve these power levels with solid-state devices.

Cathode Ray Tube Television

Cathode Ray Tube Television

Spatial Combining: What It Is and Why It’s Important

ECM systems comprise receivers, processors, displays and jamming transmitters. Only recently have solid-state solutions been able to meet the power and bandwidth requirements of ECM jamming transmitters, due to the advent of gallium nitride (GaN) power amplifier MMICs and low-loss, broadband combining techniques. However, a single GaN MMIC still has insufficient power for most ECM systems, which can have requirements of more than 100 watts from 1.5-7.5 GHz. Solid-state devices must combine multiple power amplifiers to reach the same power levels originally offered by TWTAs.

Spatial combining can create solid-state power amplifiers (SSPAs) in the following ranges of frequency and power — which all provide performance improvements when compared with TWTAs:

  • 100 W to 1 kW, 1 GHz to 40 GHz covering up to a decade of bandwidth
  • Reduced harmonic content in the output spectrum
  • Less noise generated
  • Increased linearity

Go in Depth
Learn more about GaN and spatial combining:

Caution: Heat Dispersed for Best Operation

Thermal management is critical to get the best performance out of solid-state devices. For ECMs, we often work with different thermal environments on different platforms. Some systems could use a cooling fluid or air cooling with a fan.

Spatial combining provides the most efficient means of combining GaN MMICs, lowering the amount of heat dispersed. When we measure thermal performance, the efficiency of the total amplifier is the most important factor.

The efficiency of GaN MMICs combined with the efficiency of spatial combining yields the most efficient solid-state amplifier available. The more efficient the solid-state device, the lower the amount of heat that must be dissipated.

Also, when solid-state components operate cooler, their reliability is better so we want them to operate as cool as possible. Using good thermal conductors, like copper, and maximizing the available cross section are key for improving the thermals. However, there are trade-offs between the types of metals used and the weight of the equipment — it can’t be too heavy for airborne platforms, for instance. So, there are other metals that can be used when making size, weight and power (SWaP) considerations.

How Is Spatium Being Used Today?

Qorvo’s method of spatial combining is called Spatium®. With coaxial construction, Spatium provides an efficient, broadband and compact way of combining multiple MMICs in a single step. In fact, Spatium can typically combine 16 amplifiers in one step, with only 0.5 dB combining loss. In addition, Qorvo designed a thermal path on the back of the MMIC to the cooling plate, to help with thermal management. (See the figure below for a thermal simulation using Qorvo’s Spatium QPB1006.)

Qorvo Spatium QPB1006 Thermal Simulation
Example of Thermal Simulation Using Qorvo’s Spatium QPB1006: Cooler performance, better reliability

Here’s how Spatium MMICs can be used in different applications:

  • Electronic warfare: Spatium can be used in airborne, land, or naval ECM equipment, typically in the transmitters for the antennas.
  • Satcom: Spatium is used in Ka-band satellite earth stations that operate at 100 W and 27-31 GHz, covering both military and commercial bands. It is used in ground stations on the transmitter side at the antenna hub in block up-converters (BUCs).
  • Testing: Spatium can be used in high-power microwave signal generators or as a load pull on high-power devices, during input impedance to figure out how devices will respond. In these environments, a higher-power amplifier is needed to fully characterize these devices.

Qorvo Videos on Spatium
Hear what Qorvo experts have to say:

We recently released three new Spatium products, which are intended for designing new EW equipment, operate within 2-18 GHz, and could replace legacy tubes. The products can also be used in test equipment where a high-power stimulus is needed. Less noise and more linearity than legacy TWTAs mean measurements taken with Spatium will have greater fidelity.

Spatial combining offers the ability to deliver hundreds of watts over broad bandwidths and can be specially designed, in many cases, for a new box or to fill an existing TWTA space.

This is the first time there’s been this type of power, bandwidth and efficiency available for solid-state devices. It offers a viable option for 20- to 30-year-old platforms (aircraft, ship, etc.) with non-fixable vacuum tubes; they can now be replaced with reliable, solid-state equipment.

Read full article here:

Multiprotocol wireless gateway employs Nordic technology to support advanced Bluetooth low energy smart-home applications

Courtesy of Nordic Semiconductor

Hardware platform enables development of Linux-based connected-home applications using Bluetooth low energy connectivity and other WLAN technologies combined with cellular communication link to the Cloud

Nordic Semiconductor today announces that Aarhus, Denmark-based white label Internet of Things (IoT) product manufacturer, Develco Products, has selected Nordic’s award-winning nRF52832 Bluetooth® low energy System-on-Chip (SoC) to provide the Bluetooth low energy wireless connectivity in its multiprotocol ‘ Gateway’. The gateway is an open Linux platform providing multiple wireless communication technologies to a range of smart home devices and the Cloud.

Read full article here:

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Introducing VERA-P1 together with V2X demos @TUDetroit

Courtesy of u-blox

The u-blox VERA‑P1 series is the latest in its range of V2X modules designed to accelerate the development of safer and more automated vehicles. The goal of developing safe and reliable self‑driving cars can only be realized through technology. Known respectively as Vehicle‑To‑Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle‑to‑Infrastructure (V2I), but collectively as Vehicle‑to‑Everything (V2X), the next generation V2X transceiver 802.11p modules build on industry leading technology with smaller, cost effective, production ready solution. Meet VERA-P1 – the most flexible and best performing V2X modules in the market – and a number of live V2X demonstrations conducted at TU-Automotive Detroit in June, 2017

Smart Device Vehicle Integration

Courtesy of Laird

Laird’s Connected Vehicle Solutions Division on Smart Device Integration (SDI), demonstrating the combination of charging solutions and best reception for smart phones inside a vehicle. Learn more about Laird’s Smart Device Vehicle Integration.

Custom MMIC’s Latest Circuits Added to X-Microwave’s Modular Design and Production System

Courtesy of Custom MMIC

Custom MMIC announces an expanded collaboration with X-Microwave LLC, developers of a modular/drop-in simulation, prototyping, and production system for solderless and reconfigurable RF/microwave circuits up to 67 GHz. The X-MWblockTM system enables efficient and expedient microwave and millimeter-wave circuit development and testing, using industry grade non-linear online simulation tools powered by Keysight’s Genesys Spectrasys engine. The expanded partnership will bring over 35 of Custom MMIC’s leading LNAs, PAs, Distributed Amplifiers, Driver Amplifiers, Low Phase Noise Amplifiers, Phase Shifters, Switches, and Mixers to the X-Microwave system. The companies have plans to add more of the 100-plus products available from Custom MMIC to the X-MWBlockTM system in the near future.

“We are excited to further expand our relationship with X-Microwave”, says John Greichen, Vice President Sales and Marketing for Custom MMIC, “Their X-MWsystemTM is a cost-effective, rapid prototyping system which saves our customers in development time and expense.”

The X-Microwave system leverages a unique grid-based modular architecture that facilitates drop-in component configuration of a complete RF, microwave, or millimeter-wave system. Initially, the X-Parameter and S-Parameter models of each X-MWblockTM can be assembled and analyzed in X-Microwave’s free online system simulation tool. Once desired performance is achieved, the necessary X-MWblockTM components can be purchased with a modular prototype platform. After testing and verification, these same components can be seamlessly integrated into a final production assembly housing. The X-MWsystem provides unprecedented ease of simulation, design, prototyping, and integration of microwave and millimeter-wave components, such as Custom MMIC’s wide range of high performance RF and Microwave MMICs.

“We are excited to announce our extended collaboration with Custom MMIC to offer their broad range of RF and Microwave products on our format”, says John Richardson, Founder and President of X-Microwave, “Custom MMIC products, such as their latest Low Phase Noise packaged amplifiers to 22 GHz and in DIE form to 40 GHz, are filling industry gaps and are exciting additions to our portfolio of Drop-In Components.”

Custom MMIC’s innovative MMICs easily work within the X-Microwave modular platform, and provide distinct features that even further reduce system design time and complexity. For example, many of Custom MMIC’s GaAs LNAs, PAs, Distributed Amplifiers, and Driver Amplifiers benefit from Custom MMIC’s design expertise with positive bias and positive gain slope features, which reduce the need for costly additional bias and gain conditioning circuitry. Furthermore, Custom MMIC’s leading ultra-low noise LNAs and low phase noise amplifiers (LPNAs) offer critical performance requirements for next-generation Electronic Warfare, SIGINT, satellite, and communications technologies.

About X-Microwave
X-Microwave, LLC, is the founder of the innovative modular building block system called X-MWsystemTM. X-Microwave’s modular drop-in components and online tools address every phase of the RF and microwave development process from concept to prototype to production hardware. To “Get on the Grid” and realize the full potential of X-Microwave’s modular system, visit

Nordic-powered combination Bluetooth low energy/LoRaWAN module enables long-range wireless connectivity for IoT applications

Courtesy of Nordic Semiconductor

Multiprotocol module from Braveridge employs nRF52832 SoC Bluetooth low energy solution to host LoRaWAN protocol and bridge between LAN and WAN networks

Nordic Semiconductor today announces that Fukuoka, Japan-based Braveridge has selected Nordic’s nRF52832 System-on-Chip (SoC) for its combination Bluetooth® low energy and LoRaWAN module. The ‘BVMLRS923N52S’ module provides developers of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions with long-range wireless connectivity between Bluetooth low energy devices in a Local Area Network (LAN) and Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) operating under the LoRaWAN specification.

Read full article here:

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Guardian MA950 5in1 Adhesive Mount 2*LTE MIMO, 2*Wi-Fi MIMO, GNSS Antenna

Courtesy of Taoglas 

Part No. : MA950.A.LBICG.005

Product: MA950 Guardian 5in1 Adhesive Mount




Low-profile Housing – Mounts flush to Wall
2* LTE MIMO 698-960MHz/1710-2170MHz/
2490-2690MHz/ 3300-3600MHz
2* Wi-Fi MIMO 2.4GHz/5.8GHz
Worldwide 4G Bands including 3G and 2G
IP67 Waterproof Enclosure
Dims: 146*134*20mm
1M Low Loss KSR200-P and RG174 with
SMA(M)/RP-SMA(M) connectors
Cables and Connectors Customizable
RoHS Compliant

The MA950 Guardian is a next generation combination antenna. The first panel antenna worldwide designed for IoT Gateway and Router devices. It is a low profile 5in1 wall and adhesive mount antenna. This heavy-duty, fully IP67 waterproof external M2M antenna can be used by RF professionals in IoT Gateway and Routers, HD Video Streaming, Transportation and Remote Monitoring Applications. This antenna delivers powerful MIMO antenna technology for worldwide 4G LTE bands at 698-960MHz/1710-2170MHz/2490-2690MHz/3300-3600MHz bands, dual-band 2.4/5.8GHz Wi-Fi, plus GPS-GLONASS-GALILEO-BeiDou for location accuracy. It enables designers to cover a wide range of technologies by installing a single antenna. 4G wireless applications demand high speed data uplink and downlink.

High efficiency and high gain MIMO antennas are necessary to achieve the required signal to noise ratio and throughput required to solve these challenges. Taoglas also takes care to have high isolation among these antennas to prevent self-interference. Low loss cables are used to keep efficiency high over long cable lengths. The GPS-GLONASS-GALILEO-BeiDou active antenna has been carefully designed for excellent performance across all GNSS bands, leading to higher location accuracy and stability of tracking in urban environments. The housing is IP67 waterproof and comes with 3M foam adhesive. The antenna can be mounted internally or externally on a vehicle. The MA950 comes with 1 meter, low loss KSR-200P coaxial cables for the LTE and Wi-Fi antennas, and RG174 coaxial cable for the GNSS antenna as standard. Customized cables and connector versions are also available.

Product Links
SKU: MA950.A.LBICG.005

Nordic-powered mesh network allows for simple configuration and control of smart lighting via iOS app in commercial- and home-automation applications

Courtesy of Nordic Semiconductor

TCI Telecomunicazioni Italia’s ‘BlueLightLink’ employs Nordic’s nRF52832 Bluetooth low energy SoCs allowing wireless remote control of potentially up to 32,000 lighting devices simultaneously

Nordic Semiconductor today announces that Saronno, Italy-based electronic lighting component manufacturer, TCI Telecomunicazioni Italia, has selected Nordic’s nRF52832 Bluetooth® low energy System-on-Chip (SoC) for its ‘BlueLightLink’ proprietary mesh network for the wireless control of commercial and home lighting.

Read full article here:

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The impact of the connected economy on data management

Courtesy of u-blox

By Craig S. Mullins

The number of connected things is projected to grow exorbitantly before the end of the decade. Depending on the source, projections for the number of connected objects by 2020 could be as low as 26 billion or as high as 50 billion. But even the low end of that range is quite large, so it is reasonable to expect connectedness to be commonplace and expected within the next few years.

The connected economy impacts both consumers and businesses, with the overall market for IoT technology projected to expand to $883.55 billion by 2022. Businesses use sensors and connected devices to track inventory, survey the workplace, enforce policies, monitor clickstreams on web servers, and more. Consumers wear devices to track their health and will increasingly enable more of their devices with sensors – both in their homes and in their automobiles. We are at the advent of a society where just about every ‘thing’ (both living and inanimate) can have an attached or embedded sensor.

The impact of these connected devices will be more automation and autonomy, but a significant aspect of the IoT is the creation of more data. A lot more data. The Internet of Things is projected to generate 400 zettabytes of data a year as soon as 2018. IDC’s Digital Universe study predicts that by 2020, the amount of information produced by the IoT will account for about 10 percent of all data on Earth.

This enormous growth in data creation is causing many significant changes to IT and data management. Some of these issues include increased usage of unstructured data, streaming data, and different forms of database systems to handle the increased volume.

Structured data remains the bedrock of the information infrastructure at most organizations, but unstructured data is growing in importance. Unstructured data is non‑traditional (that is, not number or short character strings). Instead, unstructured data can range from images and videos to large text documents and e‑mail. And importantly, unstructured data accounts for about 90 percent of all digital information according to International Data Corp. This means that new and different methods of manipulating and storing unstructured data are required because traditional methods used by legacy database systems don’t work with it.

Streaming data is another important aspect of the connected economy. As connected sensors and devices are turned on, the need to capture and read the generated data streams becomes important. But not every piece of data ever generated from a sensor may need to be stored for posterity. Instead, the stream of data needs to be ingested, filtered and analyzed looking for patterns and anomalies. This can be done without ever persisting the entire stream of data – which will be increasingly important as the IoT grows and generates more and more data.

Additionally, new types of database systems are being used that are engineered for analytics and large data volume issues. NoSQL databases with their lightweight infrastructure and flexible schema capabilities are growing rapidly. It is common for organizations to have multiple database systems, both relational/SQL and NoSQL. One specific type of NoSQL DBMS, the graph database system, focuses on relationships between values. Data is stored using graph structures with nodes, edges and properties in a graph database. With graph database systems the relationships between data elements is at least as important as the data itself.

Graphs are particularly useful when data elements are interconnected and there are an undetermined number of relationships between them. For example, consider maintaining a social network like Facebook or LinkedIn. There are numerous other applications such as routing and dispatching, public transportation links, road maps, and recommendation engines (such as used by online retail sites).

Of course, there are many additional aspects of connectedness and the data growth that accompanies it. Privacy issues, security and protection, data governance and compliance, and metadata management are examples of significant areas that are being impacted by the IoT. But we’ve covered more than enough change for one blog post, so we’ll have to discuss these issues later…

Craig S. Mullins
President & Principal Consultant of Mullins Consulting, Inc

Bluetooth low energy multifunction wearable integrates health data, electronic payment, and remote control of car functions

Courtesy of Nordic Semiconductor

The ‘Beacool CarFit Band’ employs Nordic’s nRF52832 SoC to provide Bluetooth low energy wireless connectivity and support processor-intensive application

Nordic Semiconductor today announces that China-based smart technology company, Shanghai Beacool Technology, has selected Nordic’s award-winning nRF52832 Bluetooth® low energy System-on-Chip (SoC) for its Beacool CarFit Band, a multifunction device that not only reports health and wellness metrics, but also integrates electronic payment, as well the ability to remotely control certain car functions.

Read full article here:

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