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3, JUNE 2002


Overview of Research on the Gyrotron

Traveling-Wave Amplifier
Kwo Ray Chu, Fellow, IEEE

AbstractThe gyrotron traveling-wave tube (gyro-TWT) is a

millimeter-wave amplifier based on the electron cyclotron maser
instability. It is a device of increasing importance because of its
power and bandwidth capabilities. The current paper presents a
brief overview of the gyro-TWT research over the past quarter of
a century. Advances made by different groups employing various
schemes are discussed and achieved performances are surveyed.
Index TermsElectron cyclotron maser, gyrotron, millimeter
wave, traveling wave, amplifier.


N CONTRAST to linear beam tubes, the gyro-devices

employ an electron beam comprised of helically moving
electrons and the free energy resides in motion transverse to the
applied magnetic field. In these devices, a new dimension in the
interaction mechanismcyclotron resonancesprovides the
physics underpinning as well as permitting wave generation in
simple and large-size structures. When the interaction involves
the gyrational motion of electrons in a static magnetic field ,
the synchronism condition can be written
is the propagation constant,
where is the wave frequency,
is the electron axial velocity, is the cyclotron harmonic
is the relativistic electron cyclotron frequency.
number, and
interEquation (1) permits a simple fast-wave
action structure, such as a smooth waveguide. Moreover, the
electrons now possess an inherent frequency, . A high-order
waveguide or cavity mode may, therefore, be resonantly excited
by proper matching with the electron cyclotron frequency. Thus,
the structural simplicity and particularly the over-moded interaction space afforded gyro-devices the high-power capability in
the region of millimeter and submillimeter waves.
Fig. 1 compares the shape and transverse dimensions
of a helix structure, coupled-cavity structure, and smooth
waveguide, all at the interaction frequency of 30 GHz in the
lowest order mode. The high-power capability of the fast-wave
circuit is clearly seen in Fig. 1. Aside from the structural
simplicity, the transverse dimension of the smooth waveguide
[Fig. 1(c)] is considerably larger than those of the two basic
types of slow-wave structures [Figs. 1(a) and (b)] employed
in traveling-wave tubes (TWTs). The possibility of high-order
Manuscript received March 4, 2002; revised March 7, 2002. This work was
supported by the National Science Council, Taiwan, R.O.C.
The author is with the Department of Physics, National Tsing Hua University,
Hsinchu 300, Taiwan, R.O.C. (e-mail:
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TPS.2002.801560

Fig. 1. Comparison of the shape and relative transverse dimensions of three

types of waveguiding structures: (a) a helix structure, (b) a coupled-cavity
structure, and (c) the smooth waveguide, all at the interaction frequency of
30 GHz in the lowest-order mode. The coupled-cavity structure in (b) is scaled
from the extended interaction structure in [69].

mode excitation provides additional interaction space of even

greater significance. Fast-waves have been generated in cavities
of such high order modes that, when scaled to 30 GHz, the
cross-sectional areas are three orders of magnitude greater than
that shown in Fig. 1(c) [1].
The advantages of cyclotron interactions, however, come with
the requirement of a relatively high static magnetic field. For
example, in the millimeter-wave region (30300 GHz), the required magnetic field strength ranges from 11 to 110 kG. On the
other hand, finite Larmor radii allow the electrons to experience
the transverse variations of the RF fields. Hence, harmonic cyclotron interactions become possible and they are useful for the
alleviation of the magnetic field requirement as well as the generation of increased peak power beyond that obtainable at the
fundamental cyclotron interaction, as will be discussed in subsequent sections.
The gyro-devices can be divided into four basic typesthe
gyrotron TWT (gyro-TWT) amplifier, gyroklystron amplifier,
gyromonotron oscillator, and gyrotron backward-wave oscillator (gyro-BWO), each of which offers unique properties and
advantages for particular applications. They differ principally
in the interaction structure and each has a counterpart in the
classical microwave tubes, as implied by the terminology. Comprehensive reviews of various types of gyro-devices including
operating principles, technology issues, and applications can
be found in articles by Granatstein et al. [2], Felch et al. [1],

0093-3813/02$17.00 2002 IEEE


Fig. 2. Schematic of the gyrotron traveling-wave amplifier.


structures. The feedback loop can be effectively eliminated by

a sever as has been a standard practice in conventional TWTs.
The absolute instability, a much more serious problem to the
gyro-TWT than to the conventional TWT, is basically different
from the reflective oscillation in that the backward wave associated with the absolute instability is internally generated by the
ac electron beam current. Understanding of these oscillations
and methods for their suppression thus constitute the principal
challenges of the gyro-TWT research.

Fig. 3. Frequency versus k diagram of a fundamental harmonic gyro-TWT

based on the TE mode convective instability (point 3). Absolute instabilities
on backward waves (points 1 and 2) and other convective instabilities (points 4
and 5) are also indicated. The radius of the waveguide is 0.27 cm.

Gold and Nusinovich [3], Granatstein et al. [4], Goldenberg

and Litvak [5], Gapanov-Grekhov and Granatstein [6], and
Edgcombe [7].
This paper presents an overview of the gyro-TWT, in which
an injected wave of low power level is amplified through the
electron cyclotron maser (ECM) instability along the length of
a waveguide (Fig. 2). In the gyro-TWT, the electrons are in resonance with a multitude of forward- and backward-waves both
at the fundamental and higher cyclotron harmonics. Fig. 3 plots
diagram of the TE and TE waveguide modes (for
a waveguide radius of 0.27 cm) and the fundamental
and second
cyclotron harmonic beam-wave resonance
lines. As is well understood, interactions in the backward-wave
region (points 1 and 2) are absolute instabilities which grow locally in time from the noise level by way of an internal feedback
mechanism. Intersections in the forward-wave region (points 3,
4, and 5) are normally, but not always, convective instabilities
which grow in space along the path of the electron beam. The
gyro-TWT is a complicated case because it exploits a convective
instability near the cutoff frequency (point 3), which turns into
an absolute instability at sufficiently high beam current when
the unstable spectrum extends into the backward-wave region.
The absolute instabilities can easily be the dominant sources of
oscillations in the gyro-TWT.
The problem of backward-wave oscillation is compounded
by an additional source of oscillation that results from end reflections. Reflective oscillations are common in traveling-wave

Traveling-wave amplification via the ECM instability was

demonstrated in the mid-1960s in a crossed-field device (trochotron) employing an electron beam in which the electrons
drift motion [8]. However,
move along the waveguide in
studies of the gyro-TWT in its present form [9] evolved from a
series of experiments [10][15] aimed at high-power microwave
generation by intense relativistic electron beams. These beams
are typically tens of nanoseconds in duration with electron energies ranging from 0.5 to 3 MeV and power levels from gigawatts
to terawatts. Intense microwave bursts were first observed in a
slow-wave structure [10], followed by investigations employing
fast-wave structures with the electron beam propagating in rippled, and eventually uniform, magnetic fields [11][15]. Interpretations as to the source of the radiation varied with the configuration employed; however, attention later converged to the
ECM mechanism. In particular, amplification of an externally
applied signal was demonstrated by Granatstein et al. with a
linear gain of 16 dB at 8.6 GHz [15]. The ECM mechanism was
definitively identified in this experiment. In parallel with these
experimental activities, dispersion relations [13], [16] and nonlinear formalisms [17] were developed to investigate the linear
and saturated behavior.
ECM interaction with an intense relativistic electron beam
was found to saturate at relatively low efficiencies, both in
theory and in experiment. However, the experiment in [15]
provided a strong impetus for the development of practical
traveling-wave amplifiers based on the ECM interaction. The
pursuit of the gyro-TWT gained additional momentum though
theoretical studies of the saturation mechanisms and efficiency
scaling which predicted an energy conversion efficiency as
high as 60% (in the beam frame) for moderate energy electron
beams [18]. Further studies in the cylindrical configuration
led to the theoretical design [19], [20] and first operation
of the gyro-TWT at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL),
Washington, DC [21]. This experiment utilized a 70-kV magnetron injection gun [22]. Initial operation at 35 GHz produced
10 kW of peak output power with 17 dB gain. A follow-up
experiment [23] employing a more efficient input coupler
resulted in improved performance. Performances of these as
well as subsequent experiments are summarized in Table I.
As remarked in the last column, each experiment represents a
significant step toward the realization of the ultimate potential
of the gyro-TWT. For comparison, performance characteristics
of a state-of-the-art Ka-band-TWT are also listed in the first
row of Table I.




Not surprisingly, the gyro-TWT was found to be susceptible to oscillations, which severely restricted its performance.
In a later experiment at the NRL, stable saturated gain in excess of 40 dB was achieved in a distributed-loss circuit with
improved bandwidth but significantly lower output power
(see Table I) [24] A broadband scheme [25], [26] employing
a linearly tapered waveguide with the magnetic field profiled
in proportion to the cutoff frequency was also investigated in
the same apparatus. Signals at different frequencies were amplified in different portions of the circuit. The experimental
device was operated as a reflection amplifier and achieved
a linear bandwidth of 13% with a peak gain of 18 dB at
midband (see Table I) [27]. However, it exhibited increased
susceptibility to oscillations.
Gyro-TWT experiments were concurrently conducted at
Varian Associates, Palo Alto, CA, in the C-band [28][31]
and W-band [32]. In the C-band experiments, impressive
performances were achieved (see Table I) with the application
of 610 dB distributed loss over the first two thirds of the
interaction waveguide to overcome oscillations. Amplitude
modulation (AM) and phase modulation (PM) modulation
coefficients, spectral purity, phase linearity, and output noise
have also been characterized for the C-band tube [31]. Most of
these figures compared favorably with a 10-kW coupled-cavity
TWT; however, the noise figure (above thermal) of

was estimated to be 1215 dB higher than the coupled-cavity

TWT operating at similar beam and output power levels.
Continued theoretical research yielded further insight into the
linear and saturated behavior, oscillation issues, wall resistivity,
beam velocity spread, and space charge effects. In particular,
the study of absolute instabilities [33], [34] has proved to be
important to the interpretation of the linear dispersion relation
as well as the identification of sources of oscillations. It was also
shown [35] that effects of the wall resistivity reduce the device
gain at only one third of the damping rate of the cold mode. This
unequal damping effect has been exploited to achieve ultrahigh
gain, as will be discussed later.
The gyro-TWT experiments during this period have been
reviewed in [36] and [37]. Experimental results generally fell
short of theoretical predictions, although isolated agreement
could be argued on the basis of poor electron beam quality. A
major source of frustration was the gyro-TWTs susceptibility
to oscillations, which might have interfered with the interaction
or prevented the gyro-TWT from operating in the optimum
parameter regime. This and other possible causes for the
performance degradation have been discussed in depth in
[37]. Perhaps partly for this reason, experimental (and to a
large extent also theoretical) gyro-TWT activities subsided
for a number of years following the early ground breaking
experiments at the NRL and Varian.




A new round of international research activities started in the
late 1980s, all with emphasis on the fundamental issues of stability and strongly supported by theories. The group at the National Tsing Hua University (NTHU), Taiwan, systematically
characterized the effects of mode competition in a TE -mode,
Ka-band-gyro-TWT (see Table I) [38], [39]. Significantly, the
experimental observations were quantitatively corroborated by
particle simulations [40]. A later attempt to suppress oscillations
with a severed circuit was partially successful (see Table I) [41].
More detailed modeling led to the demonstration of stable operation in a distributed-loss circuit (see Table I) [42]. The intricate
interplay between the absolute/convective instabilities, circuit
losses, and reflective feedback was further analyzed in theory.
Understanding of these processes led to the demonstration of an
ultrahigh gain scheme that provided zero-drive stability at 70 dB
saturated gain (see Table I) [43], [44].
At the same time, the UCLA/UC-Davis team pursued
the physics and technology of harmonic interactions. In the
UCLA/UC-Davis project, an axis encircling electron beam
was generated by gyroresonant RF acceleration in a cavity
[45], [46]. It was employed in a proof-of-principle experiment for an impressive demonstration of wave amplification
via the eighth harmonic cyclotron interaction (see Table I)
[47]. At the operating frequency of 16.1 GHz, the magnetic
field requirement was only 1.1 kG. Saturated third harmonic
operation in the X-band (as a scaled prototype for W-band)
was later demonstrated in a slotted structure, achieving 6 kW
with 5% bandwidth and 11 dB gain over a bandwidth of 3%
[48]. A separate experiment employed an off-axis electron
beam generated by a magnetron injection gun. Zero-drive
stability was achieved for the TE mode with an axially
sliced waveguide designed to suppress the odd-order azimuthal
modes. This second harmonic experiment produced the highest
gyro-TWT output power to date (207 kW at 16.7 GHz) for a
moderately energetic electron beam (see Table I) [49], [50].
The experiment was significant in that it verified the prediction
that the second harmonic gyro-TWT can be more stable to
oscillations and generate higher powers than at the fundamental
harmonic [51][53]. Current research effort of the group has
been on a W-band gyro-TWT [54], as is reported in the current
The NRL group, on the other hand, launched a research effort at the tapered gyro-TWT. Both the magnetic field and the
interaction circuit were tapered as in the earlier attempt [27];
however, a low-voltage (33 kV) electron beam was employed.
Operated as a reflection amplifier, a single-stage device produced a record bandwidth of 33% in the small signal regime;
however, window reflections limited the stable gain to approximately 20 dB (see Table I) [55], [56]. A subsequent experiment
employed an innovative two-stage circuit comprised of two tapered rectangular interaction sections isolated by a short cutoff
section. The magnetic field profile was provided by a 14-coil
magnet system and optimized with computer control. The amplification processes were carefully optimized with a nonlinear
code [57], [58]. The input signal was preamplified in the first

stage. The wave was then reflected at the cutoff section, while
the imbedded signal in the electron beam was amplified again in
the second stage. The two-stage approach led to improved gain,
efficiency, and saturated output power (see Table I) [59] over the
single-stage case, but with a reduced bandwidth. The linear gain
fluctuation of
dB in the single-stage case was also reduced
A separate NRL effort was directed at intense-relativisticelectron-beam (IREB) driven gyro-TWTs. The 900-kV linear
electron beam was generated by an explosive field-emission
electron gun with a beam scraper serving as an emittance filter.
Before entering the TE interaction waveguide, the electrons
acquired a transverse velocity of 0.4 c in a one-period wiggler field. Because of the large axial velocity, the operating frequency was upshifted from the relativistic cyclotron frequency
by a factor of 4.4. The experiment was designed to operate
below the oscillation threshold predicted by theory [60] and the
performance was simulated with a nonlinear code [61]. Driven
by a single-frequency magnetron, it produced 20-MW output
dB) at 35 GHz with 30-dB
power (with a stated accuracy of
saturated gain [62]. The corresponding efficiency was approximately 11%, more than 100 times higher than that of the original
IREB driven experiment [15].
More recently, a Russian and United Kingdom team developed a helically corrugated interaction structure [63].
The corrugation alters the low- portion of the waveguide
dispersion curve to an approximate straight line centered at
point. This novel circuit provides the important
advantages of broadband operation and relative insensitivity to
the electron velocity spread. For the hot test, a 185-keV linear
electron beam generated by a cold cathode was passed through a
magnetic kicker to acquire the required perpendicular velocity.
Preliminary results of a second harmonic experiment confirmed
theoretical predictions and demonstrated the feasibility of this
promising scheme (see Table I) [64], [65].
The University of Maryland, College Park, group has been
conducting research on two-stage frequency-multiplying
schemes, including a frequency-doubling inverted gyrotwystron [66], [67] and a frequency-doubling gyro-TWT [68].
Traveling-wave amplification forms the first stage in the former
scheme, and both stages in the latter. Operation of the inverted
gyro-twystron [66] and its phase characteristics [67] were
recently reported. The gyro-TWT experiment is underway.
We have described the physics and technology issues of the
gyro-TWT as well as highlights of the worldwide research in
tackling these issues over a long period of time. A performance
survey indicates that these efforts have culminated in the demonstrations of the gyro-TWT as a practical millimeter-wave radiation source of unprecedented power, gain, and bandwidth.
The author would like to thank Dr. L. R. Barnett,
Dr. S. H. Gold, Prof. V. L. Granatstein, Prof. N. C. Luhmann,
Jr., and Dr. D. B. McDermott for their critical comments.


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Kwo Ray Chu (SM82-F97) received the B.S.

degree in physics from National Taiwan University,
Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C., in 1965, the M.S. degree
in physics from the University of Massachusetts,
Amherst, in 1968, and the Ph.D. degree in applied
physics from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, in
From 1973 to 1983, he served in the High Power
Electromagnetic Radiation Branch, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Washington, DC, where he
headed the Advanced Concepts Section from 1980 to
1983, conducting research on relativistic electronics with emphasis on coherent
electromagnetic radiation generation, while concurrently serving as Adjunct
Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Sciences, Yale University,
New Haven, CT. Since September 1983, he has been a Professor of physics with
National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan. He is the author or coauthor
of over 100 scientific papers, three book chapters, and 11 patents. His research
interests include plasma physics, electromagnetics, and relativistic electronics.
Dr. Chu received the Publication Award, the Invention Award, and the Special Achievement Award from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, and the
Outstanding Research Achievement Award from the National Science Council,
Taiwan. He was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1983. In
1997, he was awarded the title of National Chair by the Ministry of Education,
Taiwan. He was the recipient of the 2001 IEEE Plasma Science and Application Award and the 2001 K. J. Button Medal and Prize of the British Institute of