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A triode is an electronic amplifying vacuum tube (or valve in British

English) consisting of three electrodes inside an evacuated glass
envelope: a heated filament or cathode, a grid, and a plate (anode).
Developed from Lee De Forest's 1906 Audion, a partial vacuum tube
that added a grid electrode to thethermionic diode (Fleming valve), the
triode was the first practical electronic amplifier and the ancestor of
other types of vacuum tubes such as the tetrode and pentode. Its
invention founded theelectronics age, making possible amplified radio
technology and long-distance telephony. Triodes were widely used in
consumer electronics devices such as radios and televisions until the
1970s, when transistors replaced them. Today, their main remaining ECC83, a dual The 3CX1500A7, a modern
use is in high-power RF amplifiers in radio transmitters and industrial triode used in 1960- 1.5 kW power triode used
RF heating devices. In recent years there has been a resurgence in era audio in radio transmitters. The
demand for low power triodes due to renewed interest in tube-type equipment cylindrical structure is a
heat sink attached to the
audio systems by audiophiles who prefer the sound of tube-based
plate, through which air is
electronics. blown during operation.

The name "triode" was coined by British physicist William Eccles[1][2]

sometime around 1920, derived from the Greek , trodos, from
tri- (three) and hods (road, way), originally meaning the place where three roads

Examples of low power triodes from
1918 (left) to miniature tubes of the
Low power triodes
1960s (right)
High-power triodes
Lighthouse tubes
See also
External links

The first vacuum tube used in radio[3][4] was the thermionic diode or Fleming valve, invented by John Ambrose Fleming in 1904 as a
detector for radio receivers. It was an evacuated glass bulb containing two electrodes, a heated filament and a plate (anode). Triodes
came about in 1906 when American engineer Lee De Forest[5] and Austrian physicist Robert von Lieben[6] independently patented
tubes that added a third electrode, a grid between the filament and plate to control current.[7][8] von Lieben's partially-evacuated
three-element tube, patented in March 1906, contained a trace of mercury vapor and
was intended to amplify weak telephone signals.[9][10][11][6] Starting in October
1906[7] De Forest patented a number of three-element tube designs by adding an
electrode to the diode, which he called Audions, intended to be used as radio
detectors.[12][5] The one which became the design of the triode, in which the grid
was located between the filament and plate, was patented January 29, 1907.
Like the von Lieben vacuum tube, De Forest's Audions were incompletely evacuated
and contained some gas at low pressure.[15][16] von Lieben's vacuum tube did not
see much development due to his death 7 years after he invented it at the outbreak of De Forest Audion tube from 1908,
World War I.[17] the first triode. The flat plate is visible
at top, with the zigzag wire grid under
De Forest's Audion did not see much use until its ability to amplify was recognized it. The filament was originally under
the grid but has burned out.
around 1912 by several researchers,[16][18] who used it to build the first successful
amplifying radio receivers and electronic oscillators.[19][20] The many uses for
amplification motivated its rapid development. By 1913 improved versions with higher vacuum were
developed by Harold Arnold at American Telephone and Telegraph Company which had purchased the
rights to the Audion from De Forest, and Irving Langmuir at General Electric, who named his tube the
"Pliotron",[16][18] These were the first vacuum tube triodes.[15] The name triode appeared later, when it
became necessary to distinguish it from other kinds of vacuum tubes with more or fewer elements (e.g.
diodes, tetrodes, pentodes, etc.). There were lengthy lawsuits between De Forest and von Lieben, and De
Forest and the Marconi Company, representing John Ambrose Fleming, the inventor of the diode.

The discovery of the triode's amplifying ability in 1912 revolutionized electrical technology, creating the
new field of electronics, the technology of active (amplifying) electrical devices. The triode was
immediately applied to many areas of communication. T
riode "continuous wave" radio transmitters replaced
the cumbersome inefficient "damped wave" spark gap transmitters, allowing the transmission of sound by
amplitude modulation (AM). Amplifying triode radio receivers, which had the power to drive loudspeakers,
replaced weak crystal radios, which had to be listened to with earphones, allowing families to listen
together. This resulted in the evolution of radio from a commercial message service to the first mass Lieben-Reisz
communication medium, with the beginning of radio broadcasting around 1920. Triodes made tube, another
transcontinental telephone service possible. Vacuum tube triode repeaters, invented at Bell Telephone after primitive triode
its purchase of the Audion rights, allowed telephone calls to travel beyond the unamplified limit of about developed the
same time as
800 miles. The opening by Bell of the first transcontinental telephone line was celebrated 3 years later, on
the Audion by
January 25, 1915. Other inventions made possible by the triode were television, public address systems,
Robert von
electric phonographs, and talking motion pictures. Lieben

The triode served as the technological base from which later vacuum tubes developed, such as the tetrode
(Walter Schottky, 1916) and pentode (Gilles Holst and Bernardus Dominicus Hubertus Tellegen, 1926), which remedied some of the
shortcomings of the triode detailed below.

The triode was very widely used in consumer electronics such as radios, televisions, and audio systems until it was replaced in the
1960s by the transistor, invented in 1947, which brought the "vacuum tube era" introduced by the triode to a close. Today triodes are
mostly used in high-power applications for which solid state semiconductor devices are unsuitable, such as radio transmitters and
industrial heating equipment. However, more recently the triode and other vacuum tube devices have been experiencing a resurgence
and comeback in high fidelity audio and musical equipment.

All triodes have a hot cathode electrode heated by a filament, which releases electrons, and a flat metal plate electrode to which the
electrons are attracted, with a grid consisting of a screen of wires between them to control the current. These are sealed inside a glass
container from which the air has been removed to a high vacuum, about 109 atm. Since the filament eventually burns out, the tube
has a limited lifetime and is made as a replaceable unit; the electrodes are attached to
terminal pins which plug into a socket. The operating lifetime of a triode is about
2000 hours for small tubes and 10,000 hours for power tubes.

Low power triodes

Low power triodes have a concentric construction (see drawing right), with the grid
and plate as circular or oval cylinders surrounding the cathode. The cathode is a
narrow metal tube down the center. Inside the cathode is a filament called the
"heater" consisting of a narrow strip of high resistance tungsten wire, which heats
the cathode red-hot (800 - 1000 C). This type is called an "indirectly heated
cathode" The cathode is coated with a mixture of alkaline earth oxides such as
calcium and thorium oxide which reduces its work function so it produces more
electrons. The grid is constructed of a helix or screen of thin wires surrounding the
cathode. The plate is a cylinder or rectangular box of sheet metal surrounding the
grid. It is blackened to radiate heat and is often equipped with heat-radiating fins. Structure of a modern low-power
triode vacuum tube. The glass and
The electrons travel in a radial direction, from the cathode through the grid wires to
outer electrodes are shown partly cut
the plate. The elements are held in position by mica or ceramic insulators and are away to reveal the construction.
supported by stiff wires attached to the base, where the electrodes are brought out to
connecting pins. A "getter", a small amount of shiny barium metal evaporated onto
the inside of the glass, helps maintain the vacuum by absorbing gas released in the
tube over time.

High-power triodes
High-power triodes generally use a filament which serves as the cathode (a directly
heated cathode) because the emission coating on indirectly heated cathodes is Schematic symbol used in circuit
diagrams for a triode, showing
destroyed by the higher ion bombardment in power tubes. A thoriated tungsten
symbols for electrodes.
filament is most often used, in which thorium in the tungsten forms a monolayer on
the surface which increases electron emission. These generally run at higher
temperatures than indirectly heated cathodes. The envelope of the tube is often made of more durable ceramic rather than glass, and
all the materials have higher melting points to withstand higher heat levels produced. Tubes with plate power dissipation over several
hundred watts are usually actively cooled; the plate electrode, made of heavy copper, projects through the wall of the tube and is
attached to a large external finned metalheat sink which is cooled by forced air or water.

Lighthouse tubes
A type of low power triode for use at high (UHF) frequencies, the "lighthouse" tube
has a planar construction to reduce interelectrode capacitance and lead inductance,
which gives it the appearance of a "lighthouse". The disk-shaped cathode, grid and
plate form planes up the center of the tube - a little like a sandwich with spaces
between the layers. The cathode at the bottom is attached to the tube's pins, but the
grid and plate are brought out to low inductance terminals on the upper level of the
tube: the grid to a metal ring halfway up, and the plate to a metal button at the top.
These are one example of "disk seal" design. Smaller examples dispense with the Soviet lighthouse tube65 (6S5D)
octal pin base shown in the illustration and rely on contact rings for all connections,
including heater and D.C. cathode.
As well, high-frequency performance is limited by transit time: the time required for electrons to travel from cathode to anode.
Transit time effects are complicated, but one simple effect is input conductance, also known as grid loading. At extreme high
frequencies, electrons arriving at the grid may become out of phase with those departing towards the anode. This imbalance of charge
causes the grid to exhibit a reactance that is much less than its low-frequency "open circuit" characteristic.

Transit time effects are reduced by reduced spacings in the tube. Tubes such as the 416B (a Lighthouse design) and the 7768 (an all-
ceramic miniaturised design) are specified for operation to 4 GHz. They feature greatly reduced grid-cathode spacings in the order of
0.1 mm.

These greatly reduced grid spacings also give a much higher amplification factor than conventional axial designs. The 7768 has an
amplification factor of 225, compared with 100 for the 6AV6 used in domestic radios and about the maximum possible for an axial

Anode-grid capacitance is not especially low in these designs. The 6AV6 anode-grid capacitance is 2 picofarads (pF), the 7768 has a
value of 1.7 pF. The close electrode spacing used in microwave tubes increases capacitances, but this increase is offset by their
overall reduced dimensions compared to lower-frequency tubes.

In the triode, electrons are released into the tube from
the metal cathode by heating it, a process called
thermionic emission. The cathode is heated red hot by
a separate current flowing through a thin metal
filament. In a few triodes, the filament itself is the
cathode, while in most the filament heats a separate
cathode electrode. Virtually all the air is removed from
Triode with separate Triode in which Filament omitted
the tube, so the electrons can move freely.The negative
cathode and filament serves as from diagram.
electrons are attracted to the positively charged plate
filament. cathode.
(anode), and flow through the spaces between the grid
Schematic circuit symbols for triodes. F
( ) filament, (C) cathode,
wires to it, creating a current through the tube from
(G) grid, (P) plate
cathode to plate.

The magnitude of this current can be controlled by a

voltage applied between the cathode and the grid. The grid acts like a gate for the electrons. A more negative voltage on the grid will
repel some of the electrons, so fewer get through to the plate, reducing the plate current. A positive voltage on the grid will attract
more electrons from the cathode, so more reach the plate, increasing the plate current. Therefore, a low power varying (AC) signal
applied to the grid can control a much more powerful plate current, resulting in amplification. Variation in the grid voltage will cause
identical proportional variations in the plate current. By placing a suitable load resistance in the plate circuit, the varying current will
cause a varying voltage across the resistance which can be much lar
ger than the input voltage variations, resulting involtage gain.

The triode is a normally "on" device; and current flows to the plate with zero voltage on the grid. The plate current is progressively
reduced as the grid is made more negative with respect to the cathode. Usually a constant DC voltage ("bias") is applied to the grid to
set the DC current through the tube, and the varying signal voltage is superimposed on it. A sufficiently negative voltage on the grid,
usually around 3-5 volts in small tubes such as the 6AV6, but as much as 130 volts in early audio power devices such as the '45, will
prevent any electrons from getting through to the plate, turning off the plate current. This is called the "cutoff voltage". Since below
cutoff the plate current ceases to respond to the grid voltage, the voltage on the grid must remain above the cutoff voltage for faithful
(linear) amplification.

The triode is very similar in operation to the n-channel JFET; it is normally on, and progressively switched off as the grid/gate is
pulled increasingly negative of the source/cathode. Cutoff voltage is equivalent to the JFET's pinch-off voltage (Vp)or VGS(off); the
point at which current stops flowing entirely
Although S.G. Brown's Type G Telephone Relay (using a magnetic "earphone" mechanism driving a carbon microphone element)
was able to give power amplification and had been in use as early as 1914, it was a purely mechanical device with limited frequency
range and fidelity. It was suited only to a limited range of audio frequencies - essentially voice frequencies.

The triode was the first non-mechanical device to provide power gain at audio and radio frequencies, and made radio practical.
Triodes are used for amplifiers and oscillators. Many types are used only at low to moderate frequency and power levels. Large
water-cooled triodes may be used as the final amplifier in radio transmitters, with ratings of thousands of watts. Specialized types of
triode ("lighthouse" tubes, with low capacitance between elements) provide useful gain at microwave frequencies.

Vacuum tubes are obsolete in mass-marketed consumer electronics, having been overtaken by less expensive transistor-based solid-
state devices. However, more recently, vacuum tubes have been making somewhat of a comeback. Triodes continue to be used in
certain high-power RF amplifiers and transmitters. While proponents of vacuum tubes claim their superiority in areas such as high-
end and professional audio applications, empirical evidence shows that the solid-state MOSFET is virtually identical in

In triode datasheets, characteristics linking the anode current (Ia) to anode voltage
(Va) and grid voltage (Vg) are usually given. From here, a circuit designer can
choose the operating point of the particular triode.

In the example characteristic shown on the image, if an anode voltage Va of 200 V

and a grid voltage bias of -1 volt are selected, a plate (anode) current of 2.25 mA
will be present (using the yellow curve on the graph). Changing the grid voltage will
change the plate current; by suitable choice of a plate load resistor, amplification is
obtained. ECC83 triode operating
In the class-A triode amplifier, an anode resistor would be connected between the
anode and the positive voltage source. For example, with Ra=10000 Ohms, the
voltage drop on it would be

VRa=IaRa=22.5 V if an anode current of Ia=2.25 mA is chosen.

If the input voltage amplitude (at the grid) changes from -1.5 V to -0.5 V (difference of 1 V), the anode current will change from 1.2
to 3.3 mA (see image). This will change the resistor voltage drop from 12 to 33 V (a dif
ference of 21 V).

Since the grid voltage changes from -1.5 V to -0.5 V, and the anode resistor voltage drops from 12 to 33 V, an amplification of the
signal resulted. The amplification factor is 21 - output voltage amplitude divided by input voltage amplitude.

See also
List of vacuum tubes
European triode festival

1. Turner, L. B. (1921). Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony (https://books.google.com/books?id=R6voAgAAQBAJ&pg=
PA78&dq=triode+eccles). Cambridge University Press. p. 78.ISBN 110762956X.
2. Ginoux, Jean-Marc; Rosetto, Bruno, "The Singing Arc: The oldest memrister?" in
Adamatzky, Andrew; Chen,
Guanrong (2013). Chaos, CNN, Memristors and Beyond(https://books.google.com/books?id=Tve6CgAAQBAJ&pg=
PA500&lpg=PA500&dq=triode+eccles). World Scientific. p. 500. ISBN 9814434817.
3. Aitken, Hugh G.J. (2014).The Continuous Wave: Technology and American Radio, 1900-1932(https://books.google.
com/books?id=ebr_AwAAQBAJ&pg=PA195&dq=Fleming+valve). Princeton University Press. p. 195.
ISBN 1400854601.
4. Fisher, David E.; Fisher, Marshall (1996). Tube: The Invention of Television (https://books.google.com/books?id=eAp
TAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA54&q=%22first+vacuum+tube%22+fleming+valve&dq=%22first+vac uum+tube%22).
Counterpoint. p. 54. ISBN 1887178171.
5. Tyne, Gerald F. J. (September 1943)."The Saga of the Vacuum Tube, Part 6" (http://www.americanradiohistory.com/
Archive-Radio-News/40s/Radio-News-1943-09.pdf)(PDF). Radio News. Chicago, IL: Ziff-Davis. 30 (3): 2628, 91.
Retrieved November 30, 2016.
6. Tyne, Gerald F. J. (November 1943). "The Saga of the Vacuum Tube, Part 8" (http://www.americanradiohistory.com/
Archive-Radio-News/40s/Radio-News-1943-11-R.pdf)(PDF). Radio News. Chicago, IL: Ziff-Davis. 30 (5): 2628.
Retrieved November 30, 2016.
7. Anton A. Huurdeman, The Worldwide History of Telecommunications, John Wiley & Sons - 2003, page 226
8. John Bray, The Communications Miracle: TheTelecommunication Pioneers from Morse to the Information
Superhighway, Springe - 2013, pages 64-65
9. [1] (http://www.hts-homepage.de/Lieben/Lieben.html) DRP 179807
10. Tapan K. Sarkar (ed.) "History of wireless", John Wiley and Sons, 2006.
ISBN 0-471-71814-9, p.335
11. Sgo Okamura (ed), History of Electron Tubes, IOS Press, 1994 ISBN 90-5199-145-2 page 20
12. De Forest, Lee (January 1906)."The Audion; A New Receiver for Wireless T elegraphy" (http://earlyradiohistory.us/au
di1907.htm). Trans. of the AIEE. American Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.25: 735763.
doi:10.1109/t-aiee.1906.4764762(https://doi.org/10.1109%2Ft-aiee.1906.4764762) . Retrieved January 7, 2013. The
link is to a reprint of the paper in theScientific American Supplement, No. 1665, November 30, 1907, p.348-350,
copied on Thomas H. White'sUnited States Early Radio History(http://earlyradiohistory.us/) website
13. U.S. Patent 879,532 (https://www.google.com/patents/US879532), Space Telegraphy (http://www.google.com/patent
s/US879532), filed January 29, 1907, issued February 18, 1908
14. Hijiya, James A. (1997).Lee de Forest and the Fatherhood of Radio(https://books.google.com/books?id=JYylHhmo
NZ4C&pg=PA77&dq=%22+audion+%22+1907). Lehigh University Press. p. 77.ISBN 0934223238.
15. Okamura, Sgo (1994).History of Electron Tubes (https://books.google.com/books?id=VHFyngmO95YC&pg=P
dq=Audion+triode). IOS Press. pp. 1722.ISBN 9051991452.
16. Lee, Thomas H. (2004).Planar Microwave Engineering: A Practical Guide to Theory
, Measurement, and Circuits(htt
ps://books.google.com/books?id=uoj3IWFxbVYC&pg=P A13&dq=Audion+triode). Cambridge University Press.
pp. 1314. ISBN 0521835267.
17. John Bray, The Communications Miracle: TheTelecommunication Pioneers from Morse to the Information
Superhighway, Springe - 2013, page 64
18. Nebeker, Frederik (2009). Dawn of the Electronic Age: Electrical T
echnologies in the Shaping of the Modern World,
1914 to 1945 (https://books.google.com/books?id=xwmH6-
q5O5AC&pg=PA14&dq=nebeker+audion+%22De+forest). John Wiley & Sons. pp. 1415.ISBN 0470409746.
19. Hempstead, Colin; William E. Worthington (2005). Encyclopedia of 20th-Century Technology, Vol. 2 (https://books.go
ogle.com/books?id=0wkIlnNjDWcC&pg=P A648&lpg=PA643&dq=%22H+J+triode%22+audion). Taylor & Francis.
p. 643. ISBN 1579584640.
20. Armstrong, E.H. (September 1915). "Some Recent Developments in the Audion Receiver". Proceedings of the IRE.
3 (9): 215247. doi:10.1109/jrproc.1915.216677(https://doi.org/10.1109%2Fjrproc.1915.216677).. Republished as
Armstrong, E.H. (April 1997). "Some Recent Developments in the Audion Receiver"(http://www.ieee.org/documents/
00573757.pdf) (PDF). Proceedings of the IEEE. 85 (4): 685697. doi:10.1109/jproc.1997.573757(https://doi.org/10.
21. Tyne, Gerald F.J., Saga of the Vacuum Tube, 1977, Howard W. Sams, pp 201~202
22. http://www.electronicdesign.com/analog/tubes-versus-solid-state-audio-amps-last-word-or-house-fire-part-2

External links
Les lampes radio A French page on thermionic valves. Of particular interest is the 17-minute video showing the
manual production of triodes.
Triode valve tutorial

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