What is RF?

RF is an acronym for 'Radio Frequency'. These are electromagnetic waves which oscillate in the radio spectrum, frequency ranges from 3KHz - 300 GHz. Frequencies in these ranges are categorized into frequency designations ranging from extremely low frequency (3-30 Hz) to extremely high frequency (30 - 300 GHz). The radio spectrum frequencies are also referred to as rf/microwave frequencies.

The nature of RF currents differ from direct or alternating currents in many ways. The primary difference being that RF signals have the ability to radiate freely into space from a conductor. Another key difference between RF signals and other electric currents is the manner in which they travel through a conductive material. Unlike other currents, RF signals travel along the surface of a conductor rather than deep within. This behavior necessitates the use of transmission line or coaxial cable, which houses specialized shielding to prevent the signal from bouncing back through the cable. Coaxial cable is available in many types. Thicker cables generally transmit more cable and are more durable. Some coax cables are double shielded to reduce signal loss during transmission.

Specialized connectors are also required by RF applications. These are known as coax or RF connectors and differ in size, frequency range, durability & mating ability. The recent trend of miniaturization in Radio Frequency devices have required the application of micro-miniature RF connectors such as IPX connectors from Lighthorse Technologies. These tiny connectors save space and have the ability to operate continuously at higher frequencies. Most RF connectors were originally designed by the military around World War || and are still required to conform to those standards. RF connectors can also range in materials used in manufacturing, with Nickel plating ideal for weatherproof applications.

In order for Radio Frequencies to be utilized for technology applications, the oscillating frequencies must be received by an antenna. The antenna must capture the RF electric signals and convert them to radio waves. The radio waves are then sent to the radio tuner, which is set to amplify a certain frequency or range of frequencies & ignore other frequency ranges. The data carried on the frequency is processed by a micro-controller and instructions are carried out.

The amazing nature of RF signals allow them to be used in our everyday lives for a multitude of applications. Everything from your Cell Phone to your supermarket checkout makes use of RF technology on a daily basis to help make your life easier. These uses have caused electrical engineers to develop standards. Some of these standards may sound familiar such as 802.11acb for WiFi, Bluetooth for your short range wireless devices, MIMO & Zigbee. These standards are all regulated by an independent agency of the United States Government, the Federal Communications Commission or FCC, which monitors wireless communications closely.

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