Say the word “waveguide”, and aside from a relatively small percentage of people working in STEM fields you will usually be met with Blank stares. Yet this belies the impact that waveguide technology has had on humanity since the pioneer days in the late 1800s.
In simple terms, a waveguide is a hollow metal tube through which electromagnetic waves can propagate with minimal losses. This basic principle is similar for a wide range of frequencies (here at Flann we specialise in microwave, millimetre-wave, and submillimetre-wave frequencies), but there is a vast range of practical applications for this technology, many of which have been crucial to human advancements.
Initially, waveguide technology was limited to scientific research, but the 1930’s and 1940’s saw an increase in military applications with the invention of RADAR (radio detection and ranging). This new technology was formed into the “Chain Home” early warning radar system built by the RAF.
After the war in the 1950s and 1960s, the civilian applications of radar and waveguide technologies started growing: airport radar systems became more common, and microwave relay networks expanded rapidly across continents enabling high speed communication and data transmission. Although satellite comms largely overtook terrestrial microwave comms from the 1980s onwards, waveguide technology was still integral to this new era of communications and data transfer, enabling low loss power transmission in challenging environments such as space.
In our current era, waveguide technology is used in a huge number of fields and has a prominent effect on our modern lives. Modern forms of communication over cellular networks are only possible with the use of waveguide, especially as the technology advances from 5G to 6G and beyond.
The aviation industry uses waveguide in a wide variety of areas, from air traffic control with radar and communication to whole-body security scanners in airports. Modern cars with collision avoidance systems utilise waveguide technology for testing and development to make driving safer for everyone.
High energy physics experiments trying to answer the fundamental questions of the Universe (Large Hadron Collider) and to solve humanity’s future energy problems with nuclear fusion (ITER, JET) use waveguide to add large amounts of controlled energy into the experiments. There are also a variety of other applications such as climate research, the medical industry, radio astronomy (Green Bank, Jodrell Bank), space communications (James Webb Space Telescope, Goonhilly), mass spectrometry, military defence, the food industry, even archeology. In short, modern life would not be possible without waveguide technology.
 – Retrieved March 28, 2015 from “Four inch waves turn science topsy-turvy” in Short Wave and Television magazine, Popular Book Corp, New York, Vol 8, No. 12 April 1938 p 669 on http://www.americanradiohistory.com author unknown, public domain US
 – http://www.losangeles.af.mil/shared/media/ggallery/hires/AFG-100825-006.jpg, authors USAF (Los Angeles AFB), public domain US
Authors: Nathan Bayley and Leon Knight