Brief overview of RF Mixer types.

Basic understanding of RF Mixer specs.
Take a look at different types of mixers.

Techology Definition

Mixers function as the core process in RF technology and design. They are used in all areas of RF design and development as they translate the electromagnetic signal frequencies, which is a vital function for numerous applications. Mixers are used anywhere radio frequency signals are used and they are widely used to shift signals from one frequency range to another.

An RF Mixer is a three-port passive or active device that can either modulate or demodulate a signal. Its purpose is to manage the frequency of an electromagnetic signal while preserving other characteristics (such as phase and amplitude), of the initial signal.

A principal reason for frequency conversion is to allow amplification of the received signal at a frequency other than that of the RF. Mixers are used to perform both frequency upconversion and downconversion.

Building RF Mixers

RF Mixers come in various topologies, including Unbalanced, Single Balanced, Double Balanced, Triple Balanced, Image Reject, Frequency Doublers, and Diode-based technology.

  • A mixer’s three ports are known as intermediate frequency (IF), radio frequency (RF), and local-oscillator (LO) ports, which are usually input ports. The RF and IF ports can be used interchangeably, depending on whether the mixer is used to perform upconversion or downconversion.
  • A mixer can be one that uses a single diode, or it can get far more complicated for improved performance. Two broad categories of mixers commonly used in microwave applications are switching mixers and nonlinear mixers.
  • Switching mixers, including single-balanced and double-balance mixers, are the most prevalent and have the most predictable performance, though nonlinear mixers allow you to go to much higher frequencies (well into the millimeter wave spectrum). Switching mixers require a nonlinear device.
  • The nonlinear device within a mixer is most often a Schottky diode, but can also be a FET or other transistor. A diode can be used to create a simple, unbalanced mixer. High performance mixers are designed with four or eight diodes.

As with many RF components and systems, manufacturing is key to a quality product. A quality management system delivers the kind of quality and consistency needed to meet commercial and mission-critical military standards. Efficient manufacturing procedures which monitor critical phases of the production process, ensures a cost-effective, high-quality product.

Available in many industry standard surface mount, drop-in and connectorized housings, RF mixers are ideal for high-reliability applications.

Applications and Use Cases

In RF and microwave designs, frequency mixing is one of the most critical sections in the signal chain. They are used in a variety of RF/microwave applications, including military radar, cellular base stations, electronic warfare, C4ISR, Missile Defense, CNI, space applications, manned/unmanned military aircrafts, and ship-to-ship communications.

In today’s market, RF designers are working with more advanced applications that need frequency- mixing solutions which are customized for each application, optimized for performance, and support the common platform-based designs. In general, most designers now want wideband performance, increased linearity, higher integration with other components in the signal chain, and lower power consumption. Different industries and markets place different priority on these criteria and selection of mixer types often deciding between tradeoffs for particular applications.