You’ve likely seen radio frequency (RF) power dividers and combiners somewhere in your life. If you check behind your internet modem, you’ll probably find one there, helping to power all of your screen habits.
So, what are these handy little tools, how do they work, and where are they found in your life?
Some may use the terms splitter and divider interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. They are built differently and achieve two distinct purposes. As such, they have different applications.
Power dividers do what the name implies. They divide an RF power source into two (or more) output signals. These devices use a fairly straightforward three-resistor design to achieve this goal.
RF power dividers should be used when you have a single power input source and need an equal distribution of that power among multiple devices. The best example of this is your cable. With one cable cord coming into your home from the external box, RF dividers are often used to split that signal into output signals for your cable box, your cable modem, and any other device that needs to share that source.
Splitters are designed differently. They use a two-resistor design to achieve a different purpose than those RF dividers. Splitters are unidirectional devices that use their resistor configuration to level a power source that may be out of balance. They are not intended to equally divide a power source.
Proper splitters are much less likely to be used by the typical consumer. You might find an RF power splitter in or near your electrical box where an electrician needed to level power output. In most cases, the terms splitters and dividers are used interchangeably. While that is not technically correct, these splitters are uncommon enough in the layman’s world that it’s safe to assume what you really need is a divider.
Interestingly, RF power dividers and RF power combiners are the same tools. The difference lies in how you use them.
It is a relatively straightforward tool that is inexpensive and simple in its design. That simplicity allows it to serve a dual purpose. There is no dedicated input or output side to these tools.
If you have one power input that needs to be dispersed into multiple outputs, the device should be used that way. If you have multiple inputs that need to be combined into a single output, simply turn the device around.
Often, the most complex technological advancements require the use of the simplest tools to make them work. RF power dividers and combiners are just that: simply designed tools that make so much not only possible but easy for you to use.