Vacuum Tubes Today
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Friday, August 23, 2013
Although vacuum tubes have been largely replaced by solid-state devices in most amplifying, switching, and rectifying applications, there are certain exceptions. In addition to the special functions noted above, tubes still have some niche applications.
Vacuum tubes are much less susceptible than corresponding solid-state components to transient over voltages, such as mains voltage surges or lightning, or the electromagnetic pulse effect of nuclear explosions. This property kept them in use for certain military applications long after more practical and less expensive solid-state technology was available for the same applications.
Vacuum tubes are still practical alternatives to solid state in generating high power at radio frequencies in applications such as industrial radio frequency heating, particle accelerators, and broadcast transmitters. This is particularly true at microwave frequencies where such devices as the klystron and traveling-wave tube provide amplification at power levels unattainable using current semiconductor devices. The household microwave oven uses a magnetron tube to efficiently generate hundreds of watts of microwave power.