AskDefine | Define transmitter

Dictionary Definition



1 someone who transmits a message; "return to sender" [syn: sender]
2 any agent (person or animal or microorganism) that carries and transmits a disease; "mosquitos are vectors of malaria and yellow fever"; "fleas are vectors of the plague"; "aphids are transmitters of plant diseases"; "when medical scientists talk about vectors they are usually talking about insects" [syn: vector]
3 set used to broadcast radio or tv signals [syn: sender]

User Contributed Dictionary



-er transmit


  1. something that transmits something (in all senses)
  2. an electronic device that generates and amplifies a carrier wave, modulates it with a meaningful signal derived from speech, music, TV or other sources, and broadcasts the resulting signal from an antenna


something that transmits something
  • Finnish: lähetin
  • French: transmetteur
  • Greek: πομπός (pompós)
electronic device
  • Czech: vysílač
  • Finnish: radiolähetin
  • French: transmetteur
  • Greek: πομπός (pompós)
  • Latvian: raidītājs

Extensive Definition

For biologic transmitters, see transmitter substance.
A transmitter is an electronic device which, usually with the aid of an antenna, propagates an electromagnetic signal such as radio, television, or other telecommunications. In other applications signals can also be transmitted using an analog 0/4-20 mA current loop signal.

Transmitter types

In radio electronics and broadcasting, a transmitter usually has a power supply, an oscillator, a modulator, and amplifiers for audio frequency (AF) and radio frequency (RF). The modulator is the device which piggybacks (or modulates) the signal information onto the carrier frequency, which is then broadcast. Sometimes a device (for example, a cell phone) contains both a transmitter and a radio receiver, with the combined unit referred to as a transceiver. A common consumer electronics device is a Personal FM transmitter, a very low power transmitter generally designed to take a simple audio source like an iPod, CD player, etc. and transmit it a few feet to a standard FM radio receiver. In the USA, most personal FM transmitters fall under Part 15 of the FCC regulations to avoid any user licensing requirements.
In amateur radio, a transmitter can be a separate piece of electronic gear or a subset of a transceiver, and often referred to using an abbreviated form; "XMTR".
In industrial process control, a "transmitter" is any device which converts measurements from a sensor into a signal to be received, usually sent via wires, by some display or control device located a distance away. Typically in process control applications the "transmitter" will output an analog 4-20 mA current loop or digital protocol to represent a measured variable within a range. For example, a pressure transmitter might use 4 mA as a representation for 50 psig of pressure and 20 mA as 1000 psig of pressure and any value in between proportionately ranged between 50 and 1000 psig. (A 0-4 mA signal indicates a system error.) Older technology transmitters used pneumatic pressure typically ranged between 3 to 15 psig (20 to 100 kPa) to represent a process variable.
Generally and in communication and information processing, a transmitter is any object (source) which sends information to an observer (receiver). When used in this more general sense, vocal cords may also be considered an example of a transmitter.

Radio transmitters

see Radio transmitter design
History In the early days of radio engineering, radio frequency energy was generated using arcs known as Alexanderson alternator or mechanical alternators (of which a rare example survives at the SAQ transmitter in Grimeton, Sweden). In the 1920s electronic transmitters, based on vacuum tubes, began to be used.

Power output

In broadcasting, and telecommunication, the part which contains the oscillator, modulator, and sometimes audio processor, is called the exciter. Confusingly, the high-power amplifier which the exciter then feeds into is often called the "transmitter" by broadcast engineers. The final output is given as transmitter power output (TPO), although this is not what most stations are rated by.
Effective radiated power (ERP) is used when calculating station coverage, even for most non-broadcast stations. It is the TPO, minus any attenuation or radiated loss in the line to the antenna, multiplied by the gain (magnification) which the antenna provides toward the horizon. This is important, because the electric utility bill for the transmitter would be enormous otherwise, as would the cost of a transmitter. For most large stations in the VHF- and UHF-range, the transmitter power is no more than 20% of the ERP.
For VLF, LF, MF and HF the ERP is typically not determined separately. In most cases the transmission power found in lists of transmitters is the value for the output of the transmitter. This is only correct for omnidirectional aerials with a length of a quarter wavelength or shorter. For other aerial types there are gain factors, which can reach values until 50 for shortwave directional beams in the direction of maximum beam intensity.
Since some authors take account of gain factors of aerials of transmitters for frequencies below 30 MHz and others not, there are often discrepancies of the values of transmitted powers.

Power supply

Transmitters are sometimes fed from a higher voltage level of the power supply grid than necessary in order to improve security of supply. For example, the Allouis, Konstantynow and Roumoules transmitters are fed from the high-voltage network (110 kV in Alouis and Konstantynow, 150 kV in Roumoules) even though a power supply from the medium-voltage level of the power grid (about 20 kV) would be able to deliver enough power.

Cooling of final stages

Low-power transmitters do not require special cooling equipment. Modern transmitters can be incredibly efficient, with efficiencies exceeding 98 percent. However, a broadcast transmitter with a megawatt power stage transferring 98% of that into the antenna can also be viewed as a 20 kilowatt electric heater.
For medium-power transmitters, up to a few hundred watts, air cooling with fans is used. At power levels over a few kilowatts, the output stage is cooled by a forced liquid cooling system analogous to an automobile cooling system. Since the coolant directly touches the high-voltage anodes of the tubes, only distilled, deionised water or a special dielectric coolant can be used in the cooling circuit. This high-purity coolant is in turn cooled by a heat exchanger, where the second cooling circuit can use water of ordinary quality because it is not in contact with energized parts. Very-high-power tubes of small physical size may use evaporative cooling by water in contact with the anode. The production of steam allows a high heat flow in a small space.

Protection equipment

The high voltages used in high power transmitters (up to 40 kV) require extensive protection equipment. Also, transmitters are exposed to damage from lightning. Transmitters may be damaged if operated without an antenna, so protection circuits must detect the loss of the antenna and switch off the transmitter immediately. Tube-based transmitters must have power applied in the proper sequence, with the filament voltage applied before the anode voltage, otherwise the tubes can be damaged. The output stage must be monitored for standing waves, which indicate that generated power is not being radiated but instead is being reflected back into the transmitter.
Lightning protection is required between the transmitter and antenna. This consists of spark gaps and gas-filled surge arresters to limit the voltage that appears on the transmitter terminals. The control instrument that measures the voltage standing-wave ratio switches the transmitter off briefly if a higher voltage standing-wave ratio is detected after a lightning strike, as the reflections are probably due to lightning damage. If this does not succeed after several attempts, the antenna may be damaged and the transmitter should remain switched off. In some transmitting plants UV detectors are fitted in critical places, to switch off the transmitter if an arc is detected. The operating voltages, modulation factor, frequency and other transmitter parameters are monitored for protection and diagnostic purposes, and may be displayed locally and/or at a remote control room.


A commercial transmitter site will usually have a control building to shelter the transmitter components and control devices. This is usually a purely functional building, which may contain apparatus for both radio and television transmitters. To reduce transmission line loss the transmitter building is usually immediately adjacent to the antenna for VHF and UHF sites, but for lower frequencies it may be desirable to have a distance of a few score or several hundred metres between the building and the antenna. Some transmitting towers have enclosures built into the tower to house radio relay link transmitters or other, relatively low-power transmitters.

Legal and regulatory aspects

Since radio waves go over borders, international agreements control radio transmissions. In European countries like Germany often the national Post Office is the regulating authority. In the United States broadcast and industrial transmitters are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In Canada technical aspects of broadcast and radio transmitters are controlled by Industry Canada, but broadcast content is regulated separately by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). In Australia transmitters, spectrum, and content are controlled by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) helps managing the radio-frequency spectrum internationally.


As in any costly project, the planning of a high power transmitter site requires great care. This begins with the location. A minimum distance, which depends on the transmitter frequency, transmitter power, and the design of the transmitting antennas, is required to protect people from the radio frequency energy. Antenna towers are often very tall and therefore flight paths must be evaluated. Sufficient electric power must be available for high power transmitters. Transmitters for long and medium wave require good grounding and soil of high electrical conductivity. Locations at the sea or in river valleys are ideal, but the flood danger must be considered. Transmitters for UHF are best on high mountains to improve the range (see radio propagation). The antenna pattern must be considered because it is costly to change the pattern of a long-wave or medium-wave antenna.


transmitter in Bulgarian: Предавател
transmitter in Danish: Radiosender
transmitter in German: Sendeanlage
transmitter in Spanish: Transmisor
transmitter in French: Émetteur radio
transmitter in Hebrew: משדר
transmitter in Dutch: Radiozender
transmitter in Japanese: 送信機
transmitter in Polish: Nadajnik
transmitter in Portuguese: Transmissor
transmitter in Russian: Радиостанция (техника)
transmitter in Albanian: Transmetuesi
transmitter in Swedish: Sändare

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

AM transmitter, FM transmitter, RT transmitter, TelAutography, Teletype, Teletype network, Teletyping, amateur transmitter, beacon, call box, closed-circuit telegraphy, code, coin telephone, desk telephone, dial telephone, duplex telegraphy, electricity, extension, facsimile telegraph, fan marker, interrupter, key, microphone, mouthpiece, multiplex telegraphy, news ticker, pay station, phone, public telephone, push-button telephone, quadruplex telegraphy, radiator, radio beacon, radio range beacon, radio transmitter, radiomicrophone, radiosonde, railroad telegraphy, receiver, sender, simplex telegraphy, single-current telegraphy, sounder, stock ticker, submarine telegraphy, telegraphics, telegraphy, telephone, telephone booth, telephone engineering, telephone extension, telephone mechanics, telephone receiver, telephonics, telephony, teleprinter, teletypewriter, teletypewriting, televisor, telex, ticker, transceiver, typotelegraph, typotelegraphy, video transmitter, wall telephone, wire service
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