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A standing wave in a rectangular cavity resonator.


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A resonator is a device or system that exhibits resonance or resonant behavior, that is, it naturally oscillates at some frequencies, called its resonance frequencies, with greater amplitude than at others. Although its usage has broadened, the term usually refers to a physical object that oscillates at specific frequencies because its dimensions are an integral multiple of the wavelength at those frequencies. The oscillations or waves in a resonator can be either electromagnetic or mechanical. Resonators are used to either generate waves of specific frequencies or to select specific frequencies from a signal. Musical instruments use acoustic resonators that produce sound waves of specific tones.

A cavity resonator, usually used in reference to electromagnetic resonators, is one in which the waves exist in a hollow space inside the device. Acoustic cavity resonators, in which sound is produced by air vibrating in a cavity with one opening, are known as Helmholtz resonators.


A distributed parameter resonator of the distributed network type has capacitance, inductance, and resistance which cannot be isolated into separate lumped capacitors, inductors, or resistors. The time factor of propagation of wave energy in the network is appreciable. Resonators can be of the dielectric type or magnetic type. A hollow conductor that uses resonance to amplify an electromagnetic wave is called a cavity resonator. In the context of electronic components, resonator may refer to a ceramic resonator, a device used to produce an oscillation of a specific frequency, primarily for use as the clock signal for digital circuits. A single layer coil (or solenoid) that is used as a secondary or tertiary winding in a Tesla Coil or Magnifying Transmitter is also called a resonator.

Cavity resonators

The cavity has interior surfaces which reflect a wave of a specific frequency. When a wave that is resonant with the cavity enters, it bounces back and forth within the cavity, with low loss (See standing wave). As more wave energy enters the cavity, it combines with and reinforces the standing wave, increasing its intensity.

An illustration of the electric and magnetic field of one of the possible modes in a cavity resonator.


Some examples of cavity resonators include the tube of a flute, the body of a violin (this being an example of a Helmholtz resonator), and the magnetron tube in a microwave oven (see also klystron).

The cavity magnetron is a vacuum tube with a filament in the center of an evacuated, lobed, circular chamber. A perpendicular magnetic field is imposed by a permanent magnet. The magnetic field causes the electrons, attracted to the (relatively) positive outer part of the chamber, to spiral outward in a circular path rather than moving directly to this anode. Spaced about the rim of the chamber are cylindrical cavities. The cavities are open along their length and so connect the common cavity space.As electrons sweep past these openings they induce a resonant high frequency radio field in the cavity, which in turn causes the electrons to bunch into groups. A portion of this field is extracted with a short antenna that is connected to a waveguide (a metal tube usually of rectangular cross section). The waveguide directs the extracted RF energy to the load, which may be a cooking chamber in a microwave oven or a high gain antenna in the case of radar.

The klystron tube waveguide is a beam tube including at least two apertured cavity resonators. The beam of charged particles passes through the apertures of the resonators in succession. A collector electrode is provided to intercept the beam after passing through the resonators. The first resonator causes bunching of the particles passing through it. The bunched particles travel in a field-free region where further bunching occurs, then the bunched particles enter the second resonator giving up their energy to excite it into oscillations. It is a particle accelerator that works in conjunction with a specifically tuned cavity by the configuration of the structures. On the beamline of an accelerator system, there are specific sections that are cavity resonators for RF.

The reflex klystron is a klystron utilizing only a single apertured cavity resonator through which the beam of charged particles passes, first in one direction. A repeller electrode is provided to repel (or redirect) the beam after passage through the resonator back through the resonator in the other direction and in proper phase to reinforce the oscillations set up in the resonator.

In a laser, light is amplified in a cavity resonator which is usually composed of two or more mirrors. Thus an optical cavity, also known as a resonator, is a cavity with walls which reflect electromagnetic waves (light). This will allow standing wave modes to exist with little loss outside the cavity.


The USPTO classifies devices and systems where the resonator device is an enclosure or cavity so constructed that the field configuration excited within the boundaries of the device includes longitudinal as well as transverse field components as Class 333, Wave transmission lines and networks, and Subclass 227.

Acoustic resonators

The most familiar audio resonator is perhaps the Helmholtz resonator although many other structures can exhibit audio resonances.


A resonator is one part in exhaust systems that works with the muffler to reduce noise, by making sound waves "cancel each other out"[1]. The "exhaust note" is an important feature for many vehicle owners, so both the original manufacturers and the after-market suppliers use the resonator to enhance the sound.

Musical instruments

Most musical instruments include resonators to enhance the sound of the instrument. An example would be the hollow shell (also known as a sound box) of an acoustic guitar, which permits the strummed strings to set up resonant vibrations and hence project a louder sound. Marimbas, xylophones, and other similar musical percussion often have carefully-tuned pipes underneath each bar to allow resonance to occur when the key is struck, as well as higher-order harmonics.

Percussion instruments

In many keyboard percussion instruments, below the centre of each note is a tube, which is an acoustic cavity resonator, referred to simply as the resonator. The length of the tube varies according to the pitch of the note, with higher notes having shorter resonators. The tube is open at the top end and closed at the bottom end, creating a column of air which resonates when the note is struck. This adds depth and volume to the note. In string instruments, the body of the instrument is a resonator.

The tremolo effect of a vibraphone is obtained by a mechanism which opens and shuts the resonators.

Stringed instruments

String instruments such as the bluegrass banjo may also have resonators. Many five-string banjos have removable resonators, to allow the instrument to be used with resonator in bluegrass style, or without in folk music style. The term resonator, used by itself, may also refer to the resonator guitar.

The modern ten-string guitar, invented by Narciso Yepes, adds four string resonators to the traditional classical guitar. By tuning these resonators in a very specific way (C, Bb, Ab, Gb) and making use of their strongest partials (corresponding to the octaves and fifths of the strings' fundamental tones), the bass strings of the guitar now resonate equally with any of the 12 tones of the chromatic octave.

See also

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