The ebook FEEE - Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering and Electronics is based on material originally written by T.R. Kuphaldt and various co-authors. For more information please read the copyright pages.

RF Attenuators

For radio frequency (RF) work (<1000 Mhz), the individual sections must be mounted in shielded compartments to thwart capacitive coupling if lower signal levels are to be achieved at the highest frequencies. The individual sections of the switched attenuators in the previous section are mounted in shielded sections. Additional measures may be taken to extend the frequency range to beyond 1000 Mhz. This involves construction from special shaped lead-less resistive elements.

Coaxial T-attenuator for radio frequency work.

A coaxial T-section attenuator consisting of resistive rods and a resistive disk is shown in Figure above. This construction is usable to a few gigahertz. The coaxial Π version would have one resistive rod between two resistive disks in the coaxial line as in Figure below.

Coaxial Π-attenuator for radio frequency work.

RF connectors, not shown, are attached to the ends of the above T and Π attenuators. The connectors allow individual attenuators to be cascaded, in addition to connecting between a source and load. For example, a 10 dB attenuator may be placed between a troublesome signal source and an expensive spectrum analyzer input. Even though we may not need the attenuation, the expensive test equipment is protected from the source by attenuating any overvoltage.

Summary: Attenuators
  • An attenuator reduces an input signal to a lower level.
  • The amount of attenuation is specified in decibels (dB). Decibel values are additive for cascaded attenuator sections.
  • dB from power ratio:      dB = 10 log10(PI / PO)
  • dB from voltage ratio:    dB = 20 log10(VI / VO)
  • T and Π section attenuators are the most common circuit configurations.

Last Update: 2010-12-01