The baseband signal may be in either analog or digital format, depending upon the original format of the information used to modulate the AM carrier.As we shall see, this process of translating a signal down or up to the baseband level becomes a critical technique in most modern radios. The exception is time domain or pulse position modulation. Interestingly, this scheme dates back to the earliest (spark gap) radio transmitters. It's strange how history repeats itself. Another example is that the earliest radios were digital (Morse code), than analog was considered superior (analog voice transmission), now digital is back!
The final stage of a typical AM detector system is the amplifier, which is needed to provide adequate drive levels for an audio listening device, such as a headset or speaker. One of the disadvantages of the signal diode detector is its poor power transfer efficiency. But to understand this deficiency, you must first understand the limitation of the AM design that uses a halfwave rectifier at the receiver. At transmission from the source, the AM signal modulation process generates two copies of the information (voice or music) plus the carrier. For example, consider an AM radio station that broadcasts at a carrier frequency of 900 kHz. The transmission might be modulated by a 1000-Hz (1-kHz) signal or tone. The RF front end in an AM radio receiver will pick up the 900-kHz carrier signal along with the 1-kHz plus and minus modulation around the carrier, at frequencies of 901 and 899 kHz, respectively (see Fig. 8-5). The modulation frequencies are also known as the upper and lower sideband frequencies, respectively.
But only one of the sidebands is needed to completely demodulate the received signal.
The other sideband contains duplicate information. Thus, the disadvantages of AM transmissions are twofold: (1) for a given information bandwidth, twice that bandwidth is needed to convey the information, and (2) the power used to transmit the unused sideband is wasted (typically, up to 50% of the total transmitted power).
Naturally, there are other ways to demodulate detector-based receiver architectures. We have just covered an approach used in popular AM receivers. Replacing the diode detector with another detector type would allow us to detect frequency-modulated
(FM) or phase-modulated (PM) signals, this latter modulation commonly used in transmitting digital data. For example, many modern telecommunication receivers rely heavily on phaseshift keying (PSK), a form of phase (angle) modulation. The phrase "shift keying" is an older expression (from the Morse code era) for "digital."
All detector circuits are limited in their capability to differentiate between adjacent signal bands or channels. This capability is a measure of the selectivity of the receiver and is a function of the input RF filter to screen out unwanted signals and to pass (select) only the desired signals. Selectivity is related to the quality factor or Q of the RF filter. A high Q
means that the circuit provides sharp filtering and good differentiation between channels—a must for modern communication systems.
Unfortunately, tuning the center carrier frequency of the filter across a large bandwidth while maintaining a high differentiation between adjacent channels is very difficult at the higher frequencies found in today's mobile devices. Selectivity across a large bandwidth is complicated by a receiver's sensitivity requirement, or the need to need to detect very small signals in the presence of system noise—noise that comes from the earth (thermal noise), not just the receiver system itself. The sensitivity of receiving systems is defined as the smallest signal that leads to an acceptable signal-to-noise ratio (SNR).
Receiver selectivity and sensitivity are key technical performance measures (TPMs) and will be covered in more detail in this chapter. At this point, it is sufficient to note that the AM diode detector architecture is limited in selectivity and sensitivity.
Part 2 of this article will cover direct-conversion, and superheterodyne receiver configurations.
Printed with permission from Newnes, a division of Elsevier. Copyright 2008. "RF Circuit Design, 2e" by Christopher Bowick. For more information about this title and
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