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The AM Radio Example

Darryl Morrell June 1, 1999

1 Introduction
The primary objective of this document is twofold: to familiarize students with the structure and operation of an AM radio, and to present concepts and skills central to linear circuit and system analysis. When you nish this document (and ECE 301, EEE 302, and EEE303), you should understand how an AM radio functions and what its major component subsystems are. More importantly, you should have a strong understanding of many concepts that are central to electrical engineering. The goal of this document is to provide understandable, physically meaningful examples and exercises for these concepts; the AM radio serves as a vehicle for these examples and as a device to integrate concepts that will be covered in ECE 301, EEE 302, and EEE 303. This document is structured as follows. First, we present a brief description of the function of an AM radio. We then introduce a hierarchical model of the AM radio and its subsystems. Several important concepts are introduced in the course of this description, including signals, frequencydomain analysis, superposition, hierarchical modeling, etc. When a concept is introduced for the rst time, it is emphasized in italics.

2 How an AM Radio Works


When we think of an AM radio, we usually think of the electronic device that is tuned to a station and produces music, talk shows, etc. However, this device is useless without at least one radio station. In order to understand the radio, you must also understand the signal transmitted by the radio station. Thus, in this document, we discuss both the AM transmitter (the radio station) and the AM receiver (the radio). This discussion is primarily in terms of signals. The most fundamental denition of a signal is a quantity that may vary with time. For example, a signal may be a voltage in a circuit, an electromagnetic wave traveling through free space (light or a radio transmission), or a pressure wave traveling through air or water (sound).

In order to explain the function of an AM radio transmitter and receiver, we must rst introduce the concept of frequency and frequency domain design and analysis. We then describe the process by which an AM radio signal is created and broadcast by the transmitter. Finally, we describe the process by which the AM receiver takes this broadcast signal and recovers from it the desired sound signal.

2.1

The Frequency Domain

In order to understand the function of an AM radio, one must rst understand the concept of frequency. The frequency of received electromagnetic signals is used by the AM radio receiver to separate the desired signal from the signals of all other stations. Frequency is the rate at which a signal oscillates. Frequency is measured in cycles per second; this unit of measurement is also called a Hertz, abbreviated Hz. Frequency may also be measured in radians per second. Light and sound are two physical phenomena with which you are already familiar in which frequency plays a central role.       and Visible light is electromagnetic energy with a frequency between about cycles per second. The frequency of the light determines the hue (color) of the light; red light has    !   a frequency of around  Hz, green light a frequency of around  Hz, and blue     light has a frequency of around Hz. Most light that you see does not consist of energy at only a single frequency; rather, most light is composed of energy at a mixture of frequencies. As you already know, white light is composed of light of all different frequencies (colors) and can be decomposed into these frequencies by a prism. The radio signals generated by a radio transmitter are also electromagnetic energy but with much lower frequencies than visible light; commercial " $# AM radio stations transmit electromagnetic energy with frequencies ranging from  Hz to $ %& ' Hz. Sound is a pressure wave in a transmission medium such as air or water. The frequency of this wave is perceived as the pitch of the sound; for example, a mans voice typically consists of lower frequency sounds than a womans voice, and is perceived to have a lower pitch. A sound containing only one frequency is perceived as a clear whistle. White noise (named in analogy to white light) is sound composed of many frequencies ; the static you hear when an AM radio is not tuned to any station is an example of white noise. The mathematical analysis of signals in terms of frequency is called Fourier analysis. A cosine or sine wave is a signal with a single frequency; it is the mathematical representation of monochromatic light or a pure tone. The most important result of Fourier analysis is that most signals encountered in engineering practice can be represented either as a Fourier series or a Fourier transform. A Fourier series is a weighted sum of sines and cosines with frequencies at integer multiples of a fundamental frequency; Figure 1 shows how a periodic square wave can be represented in a Fourier series. A Fourier transform is a weighted integral of sines and cosines. As an example, consider the periodic square wave with fundamental frequency 1Hz shown in

Figure 1a. Using Fourier analysis, we can represent this square wave as a weighted sum of cosines:

0 132

4 5 F 4 798G6 H BPI A 5 6$798@ A BC D$E

Note that in order to exactly reconstruct the square wave in Figure 1a, an innite number of cosines is needed. We can see conceptually how this sum of cosines creates a signal close 6 to BSI the square wave. If we consider just the rst term in the sum, we have the cosine wave R Q C DE shown in Figure 1b. This is a very rough approximation of the square wave; the frequency is 1Hz, but the corners of the square wave are not well represented by the cosine. If we consider the rst ve terms in the sum, we have

B C D$E

6 BPI8

T B C D$E3U

BPIPV

W B C D$E

@ X BPI8

Y B C DE

@ 4 BSIPV

` B C DE

@ a BPI

(1)

Figure 1c shows a plot of this sum of ve terms. This sum is a reasonably good approximation of the square wave. The individual cosine terms in the sum of cosines are called the frequency components of the square wave. In order to exactly represent the square wave, an innite number of frequency components is necessary. Frequency components play a crucial role in our recognition of sounds. For example, a trumpet and a ute may both play the same note, but we can easily differentiate between sounds produced by the two instruments. This is because each sound has different frequency components. The fact that an arbitrary function of time can be represented in terms of its frequency components is central to understanding the function of the AM radio. In the following, we rst describe an AM transmitter, in which a signal with frequency components in the audible range (0-20kHz) is changed into a signal with frequency components that can be efciently broadcast using electromagnetic energy (for AM radio, 520kHz-1700kHz). We then describe an AM receiver that receives this broadcast signal, as well as the signal broadcast by every other station within range, and converts the broadcast signal back into a signal in the audible frequency range. and C D$E . Which has the higher Exercise 1 Sketch the following two waveforms: C DE frequency? How can you determine which waveform has the higher frequency from your sketches? Exercise 2 The frequency of an electromagnetic or sound signal is related to the wavelength of b!ced that signal by the following formula:

6 BPI

@ X$BSI

c d T g @ X$h ! c where is the wavelength, is the speed of propagation of the signal ( $ m/s for elec6 $ X i d T 4 T tromagnetic signals in free space and m/s for sound in dry air at and one atmosphere f d
pressure), and is the frequency of the signal.

1.5 1 0.5 0 -1 -0.5 -0.5 -1 -1.5 0 0.5 1

(a)
1.5 1 0.5 0 -1 -0.5 -0.5 -1 -1.5 0 0.5 1

(b)
1.5 1 0.5 0 -1 -0.5 -0.5 -1 -1.5 0 0.5 1

(c) Figure 1: Frequency domain analysis of a square wave: (a) a periodic square wave with fundamental frequency 1Hz; (b) a cosine wave with frequency 1Hz; (c) the sum of 6 cosine waves in Equation (1).

Signal Source

Modulator

Power Amplifier Antenna

Figure 2: Block Diagram of an AM Transmitter 1. Find the wavelength of a radio signal with frequency 780kHz. Compare this to the wavelength of green light. 2. Find the wavelength of a sound signal with frequency 440Hz. How do sound wavelengths compare to radio wavelengths? to visible light wavelengths? Exercise 3 Consider the following sum of sines:

r sSt

uv wx$y r v S y 

Using a graphing calculator or a computer program such as MATLAB, determine the time signal that this sum represents.

2.2

The AM Transmitter

Each AM station is allocated a frequency band of 10kHz in which to transmit its signal. This frequency band is centered around the carrier frequency of the station; this is the number that your radio displays when it is tuned to a given station. For example, a station at 610 on your AM dial is broadcasting with a carrier frequency of 610 kHz, and the signal that is broadcast occupies the frequency range from 605kHz to 615 kHz. The AM transmitter takes an audio signal (speech, music, advertisements, etc.) with frequency components between 0 and 5kHz and modulates the signal to the proper carrier frequency. This modulated signal is then amplied, and the amplied signal is fed to an antenna and broadcast. Figure 2 shows a block diagram representation of this transmitter. Each block represents a logical component of the transmitter that takes one or more signals as input and produces one or more signals as outputs. Some blocks represent simple components while others may represent very complex components. Block interconnections are represented by arrows. An arrow pointing into a block represents a signal that is an input to the block; an arrow pointing out of a block represents an output signal. In the AM transmitter, most signals are voltages or currents. Each component of the block diagram performs a specic function which is described in the following: 5

Signal Source: The signal source is the source of the signal (speech, music, etc.) to be broadcast. It may be a microphone that converts a sound signal into a voltage signal. Or the signal source may be the output of a CD player or a tape player. The output of the signal source is typically a voltage signal with peak-to-peak values of a few volts and with frequency components from zero to 5kHz. Modulator: The modulator is an electrical circuit whose input is the signal from the signal source and whose output is a voltage signal in the broadcast frequency range. Figure 3 illustrates the operation of the modulator: Figure 3a shows a signal to be modulated, and Figure 3b shows the signal after it is modulated. The output of the modulator is a cosine at the carrier frequency whose amplitude is proportional to the amplitude of the modulator input. This modulation technique is called amplitude modulation (abbreviated AM). Other modulation techniques, such as frequency modulation (FM), exist and are commonly used, but AM is the simplest modulation technique to implement in a radio receiver. The output of the modulator is typically a voltage waveform with peak-to-peak amplitude of a few volts. Power Amplier: A typical AM station broadcasts several kilo-watts1; a typical modulator circuit is capable of providing at most a few milli-watts of power at its output. The power amplier takes the output of the modulator and amplies it. If the power amplier were ideal, it would simply multiply the input signal by a large positive constant. Real ampliers are not ideal, and introduce distortion of various kinds. The output of the power amplier is capable of providing the power level at which the station broadcasts. Antenna: The antenna converts the output of the power amplier, which is either a voltage or current signal, into electromagnetic energy and radiates this energy to individual AM radio receivers. Exercise 4 What frequency band is occupied by the signal broadcast by a station with center frequency 910kHz? Exercise 5 The operation of the modulator can be expressed mathematically as

S G d e$f gh
where i is the input to the modulator, S is the output of the modulator, is a constant, and gh is j k times the center frequency of the station. For the example in Figure 3, nd the value of the constant . Exercise 6 In the frequency domain, sketch the modulator input and output. (Use a bump [similar to that used in Figure 5] to represent the frequency content of the modulator input.)
1 Class I or class II stations (called clear channel stations) can broadcast up to 50 kW; a class III (regional) station can broadcast 5 kW; a class IV (local) station can broadcast 1 kW

0.5

0 -1 -0.5 0 0.5 1

-0.5

(a)
1.5 1 0.5 0 -1 -0.5 -0.5 -1 -1.5 0 0.5 1

(b) Figure 3: AM modulation of a signal: (a) signal to be modulated, (b) modulated signal.

Antenna

RF Amplifier

IF Mixer

IF Amplifier

Tuner Frequency

Audio Amplifier Speaker

Envelope Detector

Figure 4: Block diagram of an AM receiver.

2.3

The AM Receiver

Figure 4 shows a block diagram of a super hetrodyne2 AM receiver. The input to the AM receiver is the electromagnetic waveform at the antenna. The output of the AM receiver is the sound signal output by the speaker. Most of the signals internal to the receiver are current or voltage signals. As in the block diagram of the AM transmitter (Figure 2), each blocks represent logical components of the receiver, and arrows represent signals that are either inputs to or outputs from blocks. The electromagnetic signal received at the antenna is a sum of the broadcast signal of the desired station and the signals of other AM and FM radio stations, TV stations, CB radios, cellular phones, and other generators of electromagnetic energy. The fact that the received signal is a sum of many transmitted signals is a particular example of the principle of superposition. Propagation of electromagnetic signals is a linear process. The principle of superposition applies to any linear system or process. The AM receiver must separate the desired signal from all others; this is done in the frequency domain by eliminating all frequency components that are not from the desired station. The separation of the desired signal from unwanted signals is performed by the RF amplier, IF mixer, and IF amplier in Figure 4. Figure 5 shows signals that are typical of the inputs and outputs of these blocks; these inputs and outputs are represented in the frequency domain to aid in understanding the operation of the receiver.
2

The super hetrodyne receiver is the type used almost universally in modern radio and TV receivers.

Desired signal Undesired signals

Carrier frequency of desired station

Frequency

(a)
Desired signal Undesired signals

Carrier frequency of desired station

Frequency

(b)
Desired signal Undesired signals

Frequency 0 455 kHz

(c)
Desired signal

Frequency 455 kHz

(d) Figure 5: Frequency domain representation of signals in Figure 4: (a) the received signal, (b) the output of the RF amplier, (c) the output of the IF mixer, and (d) the output of the IF amplier.

After the desired signal is separated from the received signal, it is demodulated to recover the information signal. Demodulation is performed by the envelope detector in Figure4. Conceptually, it is the process of moving the desired signal from an intermediate freqeuncy to the audible frequency range. We now describe the operation of each block in more detail: Antenna: The antenna captures electromagnetic energy. The output of the antenna is a voltage or current that is typically very small (on the order of micro-amps or micro-volts). This voltage signal contains the desired signal as well as signals from other sources as described above. Figure 5a shows the frequency domain representation of this signal. RF Amplier: RF stands for radio frequency; the RF amplier is so named because it amplies radio signals. The RF amplier amplies the very small signal from the antenna to a voltage level that is appropriate for transistor circuits. The RF amplier also bandpass lters the input signal. A bandpass lter attenuates (makes smaller) frequency components outside a particular frequency band; in this case, the RF amplier attenuates frequency components outside the frequency band containing the desired station. The RF amplier does not eliminate all frequency components outside the desired band; this is accomplished by the IF amplier. Figure 5b shows the frequency domain representation of the output of the RF amplier; note that frequencies outside the desired frequency band are attenuated when compared to Figure 5a. IF Mixer: The IF mixer shifts the input signal in frequency from the carrier frequency of the broadcast station to an intermediate frequency of 455KHz (hence the acronym IF). Figure 5c shows the output of the IF Mixer in the frequency domain; note that the desired signal is now centerd at 455KHz. IF Amplier: The IF amplier bandpass lters the output of the IF Mixer, eliminating essentially all of the frequency components outside the frequency interval from 450kHz to 460 kHz. Figure 5d shows the output of the IF Amplier in the frequency domain. In the time domain, the output signal is a cosine wave whose instantaneous amplitude is proportional to the desired signal; the desired signal is the envelope of the IF signal. Envelope Detector: The envelope detector computes the envelope of its input signal. Audio Amplier: The envelope detector cannot supply eonough power at its output to generate the desired sound intensity at the speaker. Thus, an audio amplier is used to provide the power to drive the speaker(s); this power may range from milliwatts to several hundred watts. The output of an ideal audio amplier is either a voltage or current proportional to its input. Speaker: The speaker converts its input current or voltage into sound energy.

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3 Hierarchical System Models


The preceeding descriptions of an AM transmitter and receiver are fairly abstract and idealized. The descriptions give no details about the way in which each block is actually implemented, nor do they discuss ways in which real-life implementations of these blocks deviate from the ideal. These descriptions are also functional; they describe the function of the transmitter and receiver without necessarily including all components of a real system. For example, in addition to the components describe above, both a transmitter and a receiver must have a power supply which provides power to the ampliers and other circuits. The proceeding descriptions actully describe a functional, high level model of a transmitter and a recevier. Implementation details have been deliberately ommitted; it is much easier to develop an understanding of the receiver function from the block diagram in Figure 4 than from a circuit diagram that shows every individual circuit component in an entire AM receiver. In every engineering discipline, hierarchical modeling (that is, modeling at different levels of abstraction) is an important tool for understanding and design. Hierarchical modeling allows us to divide and conquer by restricting the amount of information at we must consider at any given time. The higher levels of the model help us understand the overall function of the system, while the lower levels of the model provide the detail necessary to implement the system. In the following, we rst consider the idea of a system in the context typically used in electrical engineering. We then give examples of different levels in a hierarchical model of the AM receiver.

3.1

Systems in Electrical Engineering

In most electrical engineering contexts, the concept of a system is quite different than the concept of a system that is used in physics, thermodynamics, chemistry, etc. In these disciplines, a system is typically dened to be the part of the universe in which one is interested, and everything else is dened to be the environment. In electrical engineering, on the other hand, a system is typically thought of as an electrical and/or mechanical device, a process, or often a purely mathematical model that relates one or more inputs to one or more outputs. In modeling the AM receiver as a system, the input is the electromagnetic energy captured by the antenna and the output is the sound energy produced by the speaker. In modeling a radio, we attempt to describe the mathematical relationships between input and output. The relationship between input and output may depend on values that we call parameters. In the AM radio, for example, the relationship between input and output depends on the frequency set on the tuner. Note that the distinction between inputs and parameters is not always clear; we could consider the setting of the tuner to be a system input. However, in the case of the radio, we are typically interested in the relationship between the electromagnetic energy captured by the antenna and the sound coming out of the speaker for a given setting of the tuner. The relationship between system input and output depends also on the state of the system. The state of a system summarizes the effects of past inputs on the system. At a particular time, 11

a systems behavior in the future may be predicted by knowing its state and all future inputs. In some models, the concept of state plays a larger role that in others. For example, in discussing the AM radio, we will not use the concept of state extensively; however, in discussing a control system we will use the concept of the system state much more heavily. A signicant portion of engineering design and analysis work is developing appropriate models. These models are an abstraction of the physical system under design and analysis, and are chosen using several criteria. One criterion is that the models are as simple as possible while representing the behavior of the system under study to the required degree of accuracy. Another criterion is that the models result in mathematically tractable problems that can be solved by hand or computer. Finally, a model should emphasize those behaviors or attributes of a system important for a given application, while hiding details of the system structure and behavior that are unimportant for a given analysis.

3.2

Hierarchical Modeling

A hierarchical model is a model that represents a system at several levels of abstraction simultaneously in a hierarchy of submodels. At the highest level of the hierarchy is an abstraction of the whole system. For example, the highest level of a hierarchical model of an AM receiver could the single block show in Figure 6a. The electromagnetic energy gathered by the antenna is the single input, and the sound from the speaker is the single output. To obtain a lower level model, this single block can be broken into smaller blocks, each of which performs a particular function in the radio; the block diagram in Figure 4 is a representation of a lower level model. In Figure 6b, this block diagram is repeated with an additional block: the power supply. The power supply does not process signals directly, but provides the power necessary for the ampliers and other system components to function. Each block in Figure 6b can be represented at higher levels of detail, which correspond to lower levels in the hierarchy. For example, the envelope detector in Figure 6b can be represented by the more detailed block diagram in Figure 7a. This block diagram shows that the envelope detector consists of a half-wave rectier followed by a low-pass lter. Figure 7b shows a circuit that could implement this envelope detector. The diode (represented in the circuit diagram by a triangle) implements the half-wave rectier, and the resistor and capacitor (the squiggly line and the two parallel surfaces, respectively) implement the low-pass lter. Exercise 7 Construct a hierarchical model of a car. The top level model would be a single box showing all the inputs and outputs of the car (e.g. accellerator position, steering wheel position, etc.). The second level model would show the subsystems of the car and how they relate inputs to outputs.

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Received Signal

AM Reciver

Sound Signal

(a)

Antenna

RF Amplifier

IF Mixer

IF Amplifier

Tuner Frequency

Power Supply

Audio Amplifier Speaker

Envelope Detector

(b) Figure 6: A Hierarchical model of the AM radio: (a) a top level model showing input and output, and (b) a lower level model showing the subsystems and their interconnections.

13

Half-wave Rectifier

Low-pass Filter

(a)

+ -

(b) Figure 7: More detailed models of the envelope detector in Figure 6 (b): (a) a more detailed block diagram, and (b) a circuit diagram.

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