While microwave and millimeter-wave high-power vacuum electron devices (VED) remain “below the radar” of many industry observers, the total available market (TAM) for this segment is nearly $1 B.

Despite its size, and although these tubes (valves) remain essential elements in specialized military, scientific/medical and space communications applications, this market is generally under-reported and poorly understood by those not directly involved in it.

ABI Research director Lance Wilson says, “ABI Research’s recent investigations of the high power RF vacuum electron device market revealed a total market size that was surprising even to those who were familiar with the technology and its history. Because of this, I believe there is a latent thirst for knowledge in this area.”

Essentially this is now a stable industry after several rounds of consolidation in recent years. Wilson says that there is potential for some further consolidation, but there are no signs of that happening yet. However, one new RF semiconductor technology – gallium nitride – may change the landscape. While it is not yet revolutionizing the microwave RF power industry, GaN is advancing steadily and is a technology that should be closely watched, as it will become a threat to some aspects of the microwave and millimeter-wave VED marketplace.

“Vacuum electron devices may at first seem anachronistic,” Wilson adds. “But in some cases there is no other way to generate such high levels of RF power within an acceptably small space. Certain klystrons and gyrotrons can generate megawatts, and it would take tens of thousands of transistors to do that.”

ABI Research’s recent study “Microwave and Millimeter-wave High-Power Vacuum Electron Devices and the Gallium Nitride Threat” examines the microwave and millimeter-wave high power vacuum electron device market and assesses how emerging gallium nitride (GaN) devices could affect that business. It will be of interest to organizations involved in defense electronic, energy and scientific research, and spacecraft electronics, as well as VED manufacturers, RF power semiconductor users and manufacturers, and government.