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This module is intended to present some areas of engineering in which logarithms are used. By reading the material and solving the associated problems, you will learn about some important applications of logarithms in engineering.
The decibel ( dB ) is a logarithmic unit that indicates the ratio of a physical quantity relative to a specified or implied reference level. The decibel is used for a wide variety of measurements in science and engineering, most prominently in acoustics, electronics, communications, radar, sonar and control systems.
Decibels are frequently used as a means to express the power ratio for physical systems. It is computed by multiplying the factor 10 by the base 10 logarithm of the ratio of the quantities under consideration. Equation (1) shows the computation that is used to express the ratio of two powers using decibels
Gain of an Amplifier: We will begin our discussion of decibels with an application in the field of electronics. An amplifier is an electronic device that is capable of boosting the power present in an input signal to produce an output signal with more power. It can be thought of as a black box as shown in Figure 1.
In practical cases, the ratio of the power in the output signal to the power in the input signal is a positive quantity whose value is greater than unity. The decibel measurement of this ratio of power is often called the gain of the amplifier and is given as
Question: An electronic signal is passed through an amplifier. Suppose that the power present in the signal at the input to the amplifier is 10 W. The power present in the signal at the output of the amplifier is 20 W. Express the gain of the amplifier in decibels.
We can use equation (2) to easily express the gain of the amplifier in terms of decibels
Electrical signals are often corrupted by a random phenomenon known as noise when they are transmitted from one point to another . Because it is impossible to know the exact value of the noise at any point in time, it is often becomes difficult to extract the orignal signal at the receiver without the application of some form of signal processing algorithm such as a filter . The situation is depicted in Figure 2.
A common figure of merit of communication systems is the signal-to-noise ratio . Communication systems that are characterized by high signal-to-noise ratios are in general superior to those that are characterized by low signal-to-noise ratios.
By definition the signal-to-noise ratio or SNR is given as the ratio of the power in a signal divided by the power in the noise that is responsible for corrupting the signal. The signal-to-noise ratio can be expressed in decibels as follows
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