ECpE alum receives IEEE microwave pioneer award

Frederick Raab, an alum of Iowa State University in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Just recently, Raab received the Microwave Pioneer Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) recognizing his pioneering contributions to theories, development and practical use of high-efficiency power amplifiers.

The Pioneer Award is handed to IEEE recipients for advancing technology in new and improved ways. Raab’s dedication to technological advancements is within the focus of radio, and this passion sparked when he was just beginning to be immersed in technology.

“My interest in improving the efficiency of RF [radio frequency] power amplifiers began when I was a novice ham-radio operator. We were limited to 75 watts of DC input power,” Raab said. “I was frustrated that nearly half of that power was being turned into heat instead of a usable radio signal.”

Later, Raab made the decision to pursue graduate school at Iowa State University after graduating from Iowa State with a bachelor’s in 1968. In grad school, he found another student working on a new concept called a switching regulator, which works by moving small bits of energy from an input voltage source to the output. The process of the switching regulator inspired Raab to pursue what ended up contributing to his MTT Society (MTT-S) IEEE Pioneer Award.

“I wondered if you could do something like [the switching regulator] for radio-frequency amplifiers, and that was the motivation for my Ph.D. work. Distinguished Emeritus Professor Grover Brown, ECpE Professor Emeritus Paul Bond and ECpE Emeritus Associate Professor Tom Scott were on my committee,” Raab said. “The publication resulting from my Ph.D. work was one of those cited in selection for the Pioneer Award.”

With over 100 publications, 12 patents and his own business, Green Mountain Radio Research LLC, Raab has achieved many technology-related advancements in his life. Raab started Green Mountain Radio Research LLC in 1980 and developed many applications such as amplifiers for jamming IEDs, particle accelerators and much more. Although, even after these accomplishments Raab was still not expecting to receive an award.

“I was surprised,” Raab said. “There are a lot of accomplished people in the MTT-S; making a selection is a difficult process. The awards committee has to compare not only individuals, but weigh the importance of the specific technologies.”

Nominated by a colleague and with letters of reference from five other members of MTT-S, Raab’s profile naturally stood out among others — and his background in pioneering ideas solidified his chances of receiving his award.

“Years ago I had the good fortune to be working on high-efficiency amplifiers before there was widespread interest in them. This gave me a chance to be the first to investigate a number of different amplifiers and techniques,” Raab said. “In many cases, there was not a good understanding of how they worked, so I developed the basic theory. Now grad students entering the field have to read some of these early papers!”

Raab also contributes part of his success to his participation in the MTT Society for the last 22 years. The society provides many networking opportunities and chances to learn, he said. But in the beginning, not all areas were encompassed.

“About 25 years ago, I just about quit IEEE because it did not address the area in which I worked,” Raab said. “A colleague, Clark Bell, felt the same way. We made a proposal to MTT-S to include HF/VHF/UHF technology. It was accepted, a new subcommittee was formed and we have been one of the most active areas within MTT-S.”

But a strong reason for his successes may be due to his ability to see “both worlds.”

“It also helped that I have always had one foot in the theoretical world and the other in the practical world, both analyzing and building the amplifiers,” Raab said. “This ensured that the analysis I did was applicable to real-world problems.”

With Raab’s expertise in pioneering new ideas, committees and businesses, his award is well deserved.