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Electronic Warfare and Radar Systems Engineering Handbook
- Mixers and Frequency Discriminators -

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Mixers are used to convert a signal from one frequency to another. This is done by combining the original RF signal with a local oscillator (LO) signal in a non-linear device such as a Schottky-barrier diode.

The output spectrum includes:
  • The original inputs, LO and RF
  • All higher order harmonics of LO and RF
  • The two primary sidebands , LO ± RF (m,n = 1)
  • All higher order products of mLO ± nRF (where m,n are integers)
  • A DC output level

The desired output frequency, commonly called the intermediate frequency (IF), can be either the lower (LO-RF) or upper (LO+RF) sideband. When a mixer is used as a down converter, the lower sideband is the sideband of interest.

A microwave balanced mixer makes use of the 3 dB hybrid to divide and recombine the RF and LO inputs to two mixing diodes. The 3 dB hybrid can be either the 90° or 180° type. Each has certain advantages which will be covered later. The critical requirement is that the LO and RF signals be distributed uniformly (balanced) to each mixer diode.

Figure 1 is a typical balanced mixer block diagram. The mixer diodes are reversed relative to each other; the desired frequency (IF) components of each diode are then in-phase while the DC outputs are positive and negative respectively.

The two diode outputs are summed in a tee where the DC terms cancel and only the desired IF component exists at the IF port.

Mixer Block Diagram  - RF Cafe

Figure 1. Mixer Block Diagram

Other types of mixers exist, including the double-balanced mixer, and the Ortho-Quad® (quadrature fed dual) mixer. The relative advantages and disadvantages of each of the four types are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1. Mixer Comparison

Mixer Type VSWR1 Conversion
90° Hybrid good lowest poor poor-fair high wide
180° Hybrid poor low good good high wide
poor low very good -
very good high extremely
Ortho Quad good low very good fair high wide

(1) Poor = 2.5:1 typical ; Good = 1.3:1 typical
(2) Conversion loss: lowest: 5-7 dB typical; Low 7-9 dB typical
(3) Poor: 10 dB typical ; Good: 20 dB typical ; Very Good: 25-30 dB typical ; Excellent: 35-40 dB typical
(4) Poor: partial rejection of LO/RF even harmonics
     Fair: slightly better
     Good: can reject all LO even harmonics
     Very Good: can reject all LO and RF even harmonics

Used in various circuits, mixers can act as modulators, phase detectors, and frequency discriminators.

The phase discriminators can serve as a signal processing network for systems designed to monitor bearing, polarization, and frequency of AM or FM radiated signals.

Frequency Discriminator - RF CafeA frequency discriminator uses a phase discriminator and adds a power divider and delay line at the RF input as shown in Figure 2. The unknown RF signal "A" is divided between a reference and delay path. The differential delay (T) creates a phase difference (θ) between the two signals which is a linear function of frequency (f) and is given by θ = 2πfT.

When the two output signals are fed to the horizontal and vertical input of an oscilloscope, the resultant display angle will be a direct function of frequency.

Table of Contents for Electronics Warfare and Radar Engineering Handbook
Introduction | Abbreviations | Decibel | Duty Cycle | Doppler Shift | Radar Horizon / Line of Sight | Propagation Time / Resolution | Modulation | Transforms / Wavelets | Antenna Introduction / Basics | Polarization | Radiation Patterns | Frequency / Phase Effects of Antennas | Antenna Near Field | Radiation Hazards | Power Density | One-Way Radar Equation / RF Propagation | Two-Way Radar Equation (Monostatic) | Alternate Two-Way Radar Equation | Two-Way Radar Equation (Bistatic) | Jamming to Signal (J/S) Ratio - Constant Power [Saturated] Jamming | Support Jamming | Radar Cross Section (RCS) | Emission Control (EMCON) | RF Atmospheric Absorption / Ducting | Receiver Sensitivity / Noise | Receiver Types and Characteristics | General Radar Display Types | IFF - Identification - Friend or Foe | Receiver Tests | Signal Sorting Methods and Direction Finding | Voltage Standing Wave Ratio (VSWR) / Reflection Coefficient / Return Loss / Mismatch Loss | Microwave Coaxial Connectors | Power Dividers/Combiner and Directional Couplers | Attenuators / Filters / DC Blocks | Terminations / Dummy Loads | Circulators and Diplexers | Mixers and Frequency Discriminators | Detectors | Microwave Measurements | Microwave Waveguides and Coaxial Cable | Electro-Optics | Laser Safety | Mach Number and Airspeed vs. Altitude Mach Number | EMP/  Aircraft Dimensions | Data Busses | RS-232 Interface | RS-422 Balanced Voltage Interface | RS-485 Interface | IEEE-488 Interface Bus (HP-IB/GP-IB) | MIL-STD-1553 & 1773 Data Bus |
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