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Antenna Topics: Understanding Antenna

Baluns
Introduction
In this article, the discussion is restricted to the principles of operation of widely used two-port RF and microwave baluns. Specific information on
construction and measurement of baluns is discussed in the Antenna Magus article Building Antenna Baluns.

Baluns can be classified as two, three, or four-port networks [Classics , Section 3.1]. The following discussion is restricted to widely used two-port
RF and microwave baluns. All are reciprocal devices and need only be considered in the transmit or receive mode. Understanding the operation of a
balun and antenna is generally easier when considering the transmit mode, and this approach is therefore taken throughout the article.

The transmitter is connected to the baluns unbalanced or input port via a transmission line, e.g. coaxial, microstrip, stripline, slot-line, coplanar
stripline etc. The baluns balanced or output port is connected to a two-terminal (one-port) antenna which is usually physically symmetric and
required to be electromagnetically balanced. Symmetric antennas include the half-wave dipole, two-arm spirals, and the log-periodic dipole array or
LPDA. (Strictly the latter is anti-symmetric.) The term balanced implies that the currents at the two output (antenna) terminals are purely
differential, i.e. equi-amplitude and anti-phase regardless of the output potentials referred to the ground (shield) potential at the unbalanced port
[McLean]. The antenna terminal voltages might also be differential, depending on its interaction with the environment, but this is not a requirement.

In this article the focus falls on antennas fed with coaxial lines, because the underlying principles are relatively easy to understand. A coaxial line is
said to be unbalanced because the shield at its other end is grounded by the coaxial connector between the transmitter or receiver. (If the antennatransmitter or antenna-receiver module is part of a portable system, e.g. a cellular phone or satellite, the coax shield will be grounded to the
casing). However, it is important to note that the current flowing on the coaxial centre conductor is perfectly balanced by the current flowing on the
inside of the shield, provided the shield is continuous and at least 5 skin depths thick. In other words, the interior of the coax can only support the

The purpose of a balun is to mitigate problems associated with the common mode current which flows on the outside of the coaxial shield. The
common-mode current loop is often closed by poorly defined capacitive or ohmic paths and generally represents a large external loop between the
coax outer and the environment surrounding it. This leads to asymmetrical field distributions around the antenna and this introduces asymmetry
into the antenna patterns. Common mode currents are difficult to trace, simulate or take into account in the antenna design. A well-designed
antenna balun, whether coaxial or other, must therefore:

- Ensure that the antenna is excited with the designed current distribution.
- Suppress common-mode (spurious, unwanted) currents and fields on the feed line, nearby circuits, systems and structures (masts, aircraft
fuselage, etc.). Current distributions and radiation associated with common-mode currents can distort the specified radiation pattern; cause Radio
Frequency Interference (RFI); and expose humans to radiation hazards.
- Ensure a good impedance match between transmitter and antenna over the specified frequency band.

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differential current mode, for which the sum of the two instantaneous currents is always zero at any cross-section.

Antenna Topics: Understanding Antenna Baluns

- Perform the role of an impedance transformer if necessary.


- Be capable of handling the specified transmitter power level.
- Not reduce efficiency by introducing unacceptable signal attenuation.

The baluns described here rely on a few well-known properties of open or shielded transmission lines. They are thus distributed, as opposed to
lumped-element networks. As already mentioned all are assumed to be reciprocal devices, hence they need only to be considered in the transmit
mode. This makes the essential physical principles easier to understand.

To further aid physical understanding coaxial transmission lines will be used in all the descriptions that follow. However, there are numerous planar
realisations (in microstrip, slot-line, coplanar waveguide and stripline) of baluns. Munk [Kraus and Marhefka, Chapter 13] gives a useful summary of
planar topologies which may be considered. Valuable insight is gained by drawing the equivalent circuit of a particular physical structure, and
comparing it with the circuit for other baluns.

The following baluns have been chosen for their wide practical utility. (The very important class of baluns and impedance transformers using a pair
of twin-wire transmission lines coiled around a ferrite core are discussed in another article.)

- Quarter-wavelength coaxial balun with short-circuit stub.


- Slotted coaxial balun.
- Roberts balun.
- Marchand balun.
- Half-wavelength balun and 4:1 impedance transformer.
- The infinite balun.
- The tapered coaxial balun.
- Differential LNA for receive only antennas.

We note that the use of a balun is not mandatory in applications where the antenna performance specifications (radiation pattern, input impedance,
etc.) are sufficiently relaxed, especially if manufacturing cost is an issue in large production runs.

A number of antenna types do not require baluns. These are naturally balanced, in the sense that the transmission line can be connected directly
to the antenna port without performance compromise. They are discussed next.

Consider the simple c/4 resonant wire monopole (where c is the wavelength in air at the operating frequency fc), Fig. 1, without and with a
conducting ground plane. fc. Both monopoles comprise the inner conductor of a well-shielded coaxial line (shield thickness about 5 skin depths or
more, as mentioned previously) from which about one quarter-wavelength (c/4) of the outer conductor (shield) has been stripped. In both cases
the monopole is directly excited by current injected from the coaxial line centre conductor.

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Antennas without baluns

Antenna Topics: Understanding Antenna Baluns

Figure 1: Currents on a coax-fed monopole with and without a ground plane

Keep in mind two properties of a well-shielded coaxial line to understand the current behaviour at the edge of the interrupted shield. At any crosssection below the interruption the current flowing on the inside of the shield is anti-phase and equi-amplitude with the current on the inner
conductor, i.e. the sum of the instantaneous current is zero everywhere in the coax interior. The interior of the coax can only support the differential
mode current. Further, there is no coupling between the currents flowing on the inside and outside of the shield. In this sense they are independent
of each other.

Thus in Fig. 1a, the current flowing on the inside of the shield must flow over the edge of the interrupted shield and along the outside of the shield.
This makes the exterior of the shield live. If the antenna is connected to a network analyser, run your hand along the shield near the interruption,
and observe changes of the measured reflection coefficient (S). The live shield gives rise to spurious radiation, unpredictable impedance, and RFI.
Although it radiates, the Fig. 1a monopole is generally considered to be a poor antenna.

Fig. 1b shows the same monopole, but with a flat conducting sheet which is ohmically joined to the shield. The surface is called a ground plane
(GP), being connected to the shields outer. However, despite the nomenclature it is not safe to assume that the GP is invariably earthed in the DC
sense. Although the coax shield is grounded (connected to the case) at the transmitter (or receiver), the coaxial line is often many wavelengths long
at RF, making the shield impedance indeterminate.

The GP dimensions are typically of the order /4 or more. The /4 monopole above GP, and its variants, makes a practical antenna with a number
of notable properties. The amplitude of the surface current on the GP decays as 1/r, with r the radial distance from the coaxial centre conductor.
Thus the coax shield is only weakly excited. The monopole and its GP image approximate the properties of a /2 dipole, except that its radiation

edges. The resultant pattern is dependent on GP dimension (r/). If r>> (infinite radius GP in the limit) the monopole radiation pattern approaches
the upper hemisphere pattern of the /2 dipole.

Other antennas that dont need baluns are:

- Biconical and variants including discone, monopole, sleeve dipole.


- Microstrip patch fed by a coaxial probe, microstrip line, proximity coupling, etc.
- Center and peripherally fed helical antennas.
- Probe fed waveguide horn antennas including ultra wideband ridged horns.

Quarter-wavelength baluns (qwb)

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resistance is halved because it radiates mainly into the upper hemisphere. Radiation into the lower hemisphere occurs due to diffraction from the GP

Antenna Topics: Understanding Antenna Baluns

The in-line coaxial balun with quarter-wavelength short-circuit stub


The simple quarter-wave short-circuit (SC) stub balun is a practical solution for numerous applications. Fig. 2 shows a coaxial transmission line
realisation of the c /4 balun without ground-plane. c is the wavelength at the balun centre frequency, fc. The balun is shown connected to the
terminals of a centre fed c /2 dipole antenna. This antenna is widely used by itself or as the driven element in a Yagi-Uda array for example.
Supporting structures are not shown. Capacitive coupling, asymmetric in particular, to supports is assumed to be negligible.

For the c /4 balun feeding a c /2 dipole parallel to a ground plane and c /4 above the GP, see [Elliott, Section 8.3] and Antenna Magus.

Figure 2b: The equivalent circuit of a quarter-wavelength balun

Fig. 2a depicts the physical structure and Fig. 2b its equivalent circuit for the transmit configuration. The transmitter, assumed to be a shielded
voltage source with internal resistance Z0, is connected to one end of the driven coaxial line. The transmission lines characteristic impedance is also
Z0.

At the other end of the driven coax, the dipoles left hand (LH) terminal is soldered to the shield, node 1, as shown in Fig. 2. The live centre
conductor is soldered to the dipoles right hand (RH) terminal, node 2, which is also soldered to the dummy coaxs shield. The inductance of the
centre conductor crossing the gap is assumed to be negligible. The gap between the dipole arms, d, is assumed to be electromagnetically very
short, d<<. So it is reasonable to model the excitation as a lumped voltage source with internal resistance Z0 connected between nodes 1 and 2.

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Figure 2a: The physical structure of a quarter-wavelength coax balun

Antenna Topics: Understanding Antenna Baluns

The key feature of the balun is the open, two conductor transmission line of length c/4 and characteristic impedance Zc, formed by the shield of
the driven coax and the shield of the dummy coax. It is short-circuited (SC) at node 3 by soldering and clamping the dummys shield to that of the
driven coax. The clamp is used to fine-tune the balun. It must be metallic and the insulating jacket removed from the two shields to ensure good
ohmic contact. It is good practice to short-circuit the dummys centre conductor to its own shield at node 2.

Without the SC stub, current from the inside of the driven coax shield divides unpredictably between the LH dipole arm and the exterior of the
driven coax shield. Hence the current distribution on the dipole arms is asymmetric (unbalanced) about the feed point. The resulting radiation
pattern distortion may not be important in some applications, but in others the live coax shield can cause the problems discussed in connection
with Fig. 1a.

These issues are mitigated by connecting the SC stub in parallel with the dipole impedance between nodes 1 and 2. The electrical symmetry of the
topology establishes currents on the conductors of the two conductor transmission line which are equi-amplitude but anti-phase. (This is a
fundamental property of a two conductor transmission line with a lumped source at one of its ends, whether shielded or not [Tesche et al, pp. 223228]. However if there is no shield, as in this case, care must be taken to ensure there is no stray lumped or distributed capacitive or other coupling
mechanism to the surrounds.) Hence, by superposition, no current can flow on the feed line below node 3, even below or above the stub quarterwave resonant frequency fc.

The parallel reactance presented by the SC stub between nodes 1 and 2 is Xsc=Zc tan ((/2)(f/fc)). This yields inductive reactance below
resonance; an OC at quarter-wave resonance, f= fc; and capacitive reactance above resonance. The corresponding input reactance of the c/2
dipole is capacitive at frequencies below fc; zero at resonance; and inductive above fc This is clear from the simple first-order series LCR
representation of the c/2 dipole, e.g. [Jordan and Balmain, Fig 11.27]. The susceptance of the parallel combination is B = Bsc+Bant, with
Bsc=1/Xsc the stub and Bant= 1/Xant the dipole susceptance. Zc, the stub characteristic impedance, is a design parameter. The best choice
minimises B, and thus the frequency dependent reflection coefficient over the specified operating band. For practical antennas this usually requires
Zc>Zo. To a good approximation Zc 120 ln (d/R), with R the radius of the coax screens. Evidently Zc can be increased by increasing the spacing,
d, between conductors.

The preceding expression for Zc neglects the effect of any dielectric between the conductors, e.g. their insulating jackets. If the spacing between
conductors is small compared to the thickness of the jackets, the effective permittivity must be used when computing Zc. Further, the wavelength
c will be reduced because of the reduction of the propagation velocity of the differential TEM mode supported by the conductors. This accordingly

In summary: besides isolating the drive coax below the SC, the stub can be designed to maximise bandwidth by compensating for the frequency
dependent antenna susceptance. This is graphically illustrated on the Smith Chart, e.g. [Munk, Section 23.3 in Kraus and Marhefka, Chapter 13].
Also bear in mind that the reactance of a large diameter dipole is significantly less than for a thin dipole with the same resonant frequency. So, if
feasible choose a fat dipole.

The stub supports a current standing wave with maximum at the SC, even at frequencies below and above fc. The distributed current is equiamplitude and anti-phase everywhere at opposite points on each conductor, as stated above. The pair of conductors can be seen as a two element
quarter-wave array radiating in anti-phase. For spacing d<< the radiating field from the two elements interfere destructively and the resulting
field is negligible. However, the stub will radiate increasingly as d/, the electrical spacing between its conductor arms, is increased. Zc must usually
be greater than Z0 for optimal susceptance cancellation. Since it increases weakly (logarithmically) with d, the choice of Zc may be a compromise
between the need for low spurious radiation, and impedance bandwidth.

As mentioned earlier, the coaxial line is usually many wavelengths long at RF. Therefore it is incorrect to assume that the coax shield is grounded
below the SC stub, even though the transmitter or receiver is earthed. However static charge build up on the dipole and the coax shield will be

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reduces the length, c/4, of the stub, and is also why the position of the shorting clamp must be adjustable for fine tuning.

Antenna Topics: Understanding Antenna Baluns

discharged safely because both dipole arms are ohmically connected to the shield, which is indeed effectively grounded since the charge build up
process is usually quasistatic, i.e. the characteristic wavelength is much greater than the coaxial cable length.

The slotted or split coaxial balun


The slotted coaxial balun [Makarov] is used to connect dipole antennas to high power VHF and UHF transmitters for broadcasting FM radio and TV
signals. In such applications the coaxial line is often rigid and filled with dry air. A dielectric spacer, resembling e.g. a large-pitch corkscrew for
example, is used to minimize attenuation due to dielectric loss. As a result the effective relative permittivity is close to 1 (dry air).

Fig. 3A depicts the physical realisation of this balun to drive a centre fed c/2 dipole at frequency fc. Slots of length c/4 at the centre frequency are
cut in opposite sides of the coaxial shield. The LH arm of the dipole is directly connected to the shield to the left of the slot, node 1. The centre
conductor is connected to the shield on the right of the slot by a short circuit, and the dipole RH arm is also connected to the same shield, node 2.

The balun relies on the fundamental fact that a three-conductor transmission line, e.g. two parallel wires above a ground plane, can support two
completely uncoupled and independent TEM waves. The quarter-wave section between nodes 1 and 2, and node 3 is just such a three-conductor
line. This is evident from the cross-sections, Fig 3B, which also show the E-field distributions for the unbalanced and balanced modes. The
unbalanced wave is launched at the transition from coax to slotted guide section, and propagates to the other end of the system.

There the short-circuit shunt between the live coaxial inner-conductor and one arm of the slotted shield is converted into a reflected balanced
mode. Thus the SC is a mode converter which couples the unbalanced to the balanced modes. Fig 3B also shows that the superposition of the two
modes satisfy the boundary condition at nodes 1 and 2. The balanced mode propagates back towards the end of the slot where it is reflected at

Figure 3A: The physical structure of the split-coax balun

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node 3 by the junction (a SC for the balanced mode) of coax shield and slot.

Antenna Topics: Understanding Antenna Baluns

Figure 3B: Cross-sections showing the field distributions of the modes of interest in the split-coax balun

From this discussion it is evident that for the unbalanced mode the slotted section can be modelled as a quarter-wave transformer (characteristic
impedance Z1+) in series between the transmitter (generator impedance Z0) and the load presented by the antenna between nodes 1 and 2.
Further, the interaction of the balanced mode (characteristic impedance Z1-) with the short-circuit at the slots end (node 3) can be modelled as a

Figure 3c: A representative transmission-line equivalent circuit of the split-coax balun

Comparison of the slotted-coax balun with the in-line coax balun with quarter-wave SC stub (Fig 2B) shows that a suitably designed slotted-coax
balun has the potential for superior impedance bandwidth. This is because the characteristic impedances of the unbalanced (Z1+) and balanced
(Z1-) modes, although not perfectly independent due to the geometry, give an additional degree of freedom. In other words, Fig 2B is a 1st order
network, whereas the slotted-coax balun is a 2nd order network.

Finally, the slotted-coax balun also acts as a 2:1 voltage transformer (or a 4:1 impedance transformer). If +V is the voltage amplitude with respect
to ground at the generator, the output voltage is differential with amplitudes +V and V with respect to a virtual ground. Further on in this article
the half-wave transformer is discussed. It is shown that this is also a 4:1 impedance transformer, but over a more restricted band.

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short-circuit quarter-wave stub in shunt with the antenna load. The resulting transmission-line equivalent circuit is shown in Fig. 3C.

Antenna Topics: Understanding Antenna Baluns

The Roberts balun


The physical construction of the Roberts balun is shown in Fig. 4a, and its equivalent circuit in Fig. 4b. For the balun shown in Fig. 2, the live
centre conductor is connected to the shield of the dummy coaxial line. The dummys centre conductor plays no role. However, the live centre
conductor of the Roberts balun is connected to the dummys centre conductor. The latter is cut to c/4 in the dummys dielectric to form an OC stub
in series with the voltage source.

Figure 4b: Transmission-line model and equivalent lumped-element circuit representation of the Roberts balun

The SC and OC stubs are designed to ensure that the overall reactance of the combination compensate for the reactance of the dipole over a
significantly broader frequency band than the balun shown in Fig. 2. Bowman gives a very good Smith chart explanation of the underlying principles
[Jasik, Section 31.7] Also see [Munk, Section 23.3 in Kraus and Marhefka, Chapter 13].

As shown below, the equivalent circuit of the Roberts and 2nd order Marchand baluns are identical. Hence the 2
can be used to design an optimal Roberts balun

The Marchand balun

nd

order Marchand design procedure

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Figure 4a: The physical structure of the Roberts balun

Antenna Topics: Understanding Antenna Baluns

The Marchand balun [Marchand] is widely used to feed antennas which are subject to stringent radiation pattern performance specifications, e.g.
cavity backed Archimedes spiral antennas that must operate over the entire 2 to 18 GHz band. In such applications relatively low common mode
(unwanted) current flowing on the feed line and the antenna itself, can cause unacceptable radiation pattern perturbations. The Marchand balun
excels in suppressing common mode current because it can be completely shielded, and because of its external electrical symmetry. The superior
performance and flexibility of the Marchand balun are rarely surpassed by other balun types. This often justifies the additional manufacturing cost of
the Marchand balun.

Figure 5b: Equivalent transmission line model of the Marchand balun

The Marchand balun can be designed to cover bandwidths from 2:1 to more than 10:1, depending on the antenna impedance bandwidth. It is a

completely decoupled from the transmitter at DC and f=fc/2 by the series OC and shunt SC stubs shown in Fig. 5b [Cloete 1980].

The physical implementation of the coaxial Marchand balun is shown in cross-section, Fig. 5a. The transmission line equivalent circuit, Fig. 5b, is a
4th order network when the characteristic impedances Z1 and Z4 differ from the source and load impedances Z0 and RL. It is a worthwhile exercise
to construct the equivalent circuit from the physical structure, as was illustrated above for the coaxial balun with quarter-wavelength short-circuits
stub and the Roberts balun.

Since a well-designed cavity backed Archimedes spiral antenna has a nominally constant input resistance over its operating band, the assumption of
resistive load, RL, is a good design starting point. Then, if necessary the design can be optimised numerically. When Z1=Z0, the source resistance
and Z4=RL, the antenna resistance, the Marchand reduces to a 2nd order network with the same equivalent circuit as the Roberts balun, Fig. 4b.
The design procedure for the 2nd order Marchand balun is thus directly applicable to the Roberts balun. Note that the physical Roberts balun can be
thought of as a folded Marchand, with the important exception that the Roberts SC-stub is not shielded.

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band-pass device with centre frequency fc, where the transmission line elements are all quarter-wave resonant. In particular the antenna is

Antenna Topics: Understanding Antenna Baluns

10

Design information for the Marchand balun is provided in [Cloete 1980 and 1981].

Baluns which do not rely on quarter wavelength stubs


The half-wave balun
The centre-fed half-wavelength folded dipole, with length about c/2 at its first resonant frequency fc, has impedance bandwidth ratio approaching
2:1 [Jordan & Balmain, pp. 402-406]. This, and the mechanical rigidity of its folded tubular construction, makes it an attractive alternative to the
single conductor half-wavelength dipole.

At resonance the input resistance of the folded dipole is somewhat less than 300 , depending on the tube diameter, i.e. about 4 times the
radiation resistance of the resonant single arm dipole [Jordan and Balmain, ibid.], [Stutzman and Thiele, pp. 175-180]. Parallel twin-wire
transmission lines with characteristic impedance Z0=300 are readily available [ARRL Handbook, Table 19.1]. However they are usually unshielded
with associated RFI implications, and must still be connected to a balanced transmitter or receiver. Instead, the folded dipole can be connected to a
standard 75 coaxial line via a balun with integral 4:1 impedance transformer.

The half-wave balun shown in Fig. 6 has the requisite properties. The length of its coaxial loop is c/2, with characteristic impedance Zc. The shield
at both ends of the loop is soldered to the shield of the drive coax, characteristic impedance Z0. The centre conductor at one end of the loop is
connected to that of the drive coax, and to the folded dipoles terminal 1. The loops centre conductor at the other end is connected to the dipoles

Figure 6: Physical structure and equivalent model of the half-wave balun

Consider the transmit mode. The instantaneous amplitude of the standing wave electric field is essentially zero in the middle of both dipole arms.
The folded dipole presents a balanced input resistance RL at resonance. It can therefore be decomposed into the series connection of two RL/2
resistors separated by a virtual earth. This allows the loop to be unfolded as shown in the equivalent circuit, Fig. 6b. The loop is one halfwavelength long at the centre frequency. Thus the voltages at terminals 1 and 2 have the same amplitude, but 180 phase difference, as required
for balanced (differential) excitation of the half-wave dipole.

Further, the load RL/2 at terminal 2 transforms to RL/2 at terminal 1, and is thus in parallel with the terminal 1 load. Accordingly the generator
sees RL/4, which gives the required 4:1 impedance transformation.

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terminal 2.

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The RL/2 resistors are effectively in series at the baluns output terminals, but in parallel at the input end. Hence the folded dipoles input resistance
of about 300 is transformed to 75 , as required for a good impedance match. Note that the potential difference between terminals 1 and 2 (the
output terminals) is V-(-V) = 2V, while the input voltage (between terminal 1 and virtual ground) is V-0 = V. Thus the voltage transformation ratio is
2:1, which is consistent with 4:1 impedance transformation.

Up to now the characteristic impedance, Zc, of the half-wave loop has not been specified. If practical, choose a coaxial line with ZcRL/2, because
then the generator sees RL/2 in parallel with RL/2 even at frequencies above and below fc. For the half-wave dipole the loop characteristic
impedance is Zc=150 for broad-band 4:1 impedance transformation.

However, the baluns bandwidth is usually not determined by its role as 4:1 impedance transformer. The voltage between terminals 1 and 2 is only
precisely differential at frequency fc, when the loop is c/2. Bandwidth thus depends on the maximum acceptable amplitude and phase errors of the
voltages at terminals 1 and 2.

Differential voltage imbalance can be compensated to some extent by adjusting Zc [Munk, Section 23-8]. Such flexibility is usually not feasible for
coaxial implementation using commercially available coax. However appropriate line widths can be etched for a stripline balun.

The infinite balun


The infinite balun nomenclature was coined in the 1950s at the University of Illinois by Dyson, one of the frequency independent antenna
pioneers. It is called infinite because its frequency bandwidth is limited only by the LPDAs minimum and maximum operating frequencies.

The balun will be described in the context of its most common application as the feed for log-periodic dipole arrays (LPDAs). The essential feature of
the LPDA is a sequence of dipoles of increasing length connected alternately to an open, two conductor transmission line, Fig. 7. At microwave

Figure 7: Structure of the infinite balun used to feed a log-periodic dipole array

Early experiments revealed a number of important generic properties of the LPDA, and also strictly frequency independent antennas such as the
logarithmic spiral., [Jordan and Balmain, pp. 610-619]. The array must be fed from the high-frequency end as shown in Fig. 7; radiation is in the
backfire direction, i.e. towards the feed point.The LPDA has an active region where the dipoles are excited with appropriate amplitude and phase to
radiate strongly.At fmin the active region is located near the back of the LPDA, i.e. where the dipoles are longest; the active region shifts towards
the feed point as the operating frequency is increased to fmax. A transmission zone lies between the feed point and the active region; beyond the
active region is the reflective (or inactive) region where current on the two conductor transmission line decays rapidly.

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frequencies the LPDA can be made using PCB (printed circuit board) technology.

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12

The LPDA can be fed by an external, balanced, open two-conductor transmission line connected directly to the feed point. However, in and above
the VHF band the infinite balun offers a very practical alternative. A coaxial line from the receiver or transmitter enters the back of one of the
tubes which make up the LPDA transmission line. The coaxial shield is soldered to the inside of the tube at the feed point, and the live centre
conductor is taken across the gap and soldered to the other boom. This launches a TEM (i.e. balanced) wave through the transmission region to
excite the dipoles in the active region. Since the current beyond the active region decays rapidly, as mentioned above, the LPDA can be truncated
without spoiling its input impedance. Note that the characteristic impedance of the two conductor transmission line must also be correctly designed
to make the reflection from the feed point acceptably low.

The tapered coaxial balun


The high-performance Marchand balun is usually chosen to feed cavity backed spiral antennas for bandwidth ratios up to approximately 10:1. The
tapered coaxial device, Fig. 8, is capable of bandwidth ratios as large as 100:1. It is a high-pass device, with the length of the transition region
about one half-wavelength at the minimum frequency, [Duncan and Minerva]. See also [Munk, in Kraus and Marhefka, p. 818], [Stutzman and
Thiele, pp.186-187] for some background information.

Figure 8: The physical structure of the tapered coaxial balun

The tapered balun is required to perform two functions: (a) Convert the screened coax TEM mode to the open two-conductor TEM mode (balanced)
and (b)Transform the screened coaxial line characteristic impedance, typically 50 , to the nominally resistive input impedance of a two-arm spiral

Duncan and Minerva achieve this by carefully designing a Klopfenstein taper [Duncan and Minerva].

Despite this precaution it can be argued that the transition region resembles a travelling wave long-wire antenna at frequencies above fmin. Thus,
besides supporting the required guided wave, the unscreened balun may radiate a fraction of its energy and perturb the specified radiation pattern.
Technically it is not a true balun since there is no inherent means to suppress the currents which can flow on the outside of the coax. However,
Baker and van der Neut have obtained excellent performance from a cavity backed Archimedes spiral over in excess of 40:1 bandwidth ratio (175
MHz to 10 GHz.)

The balun lends itself well to low cost microstrip implementation. Very good performance has been demonstrated over at least 10:1 bandwidth ratio
[Baker, Nortier and van der Neut], [Engargiola].

The 180-degree hybrid as antenna balun

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antenna, say 100 . Both these requirements demand that above its minimum frequency the reflection coefficient from the transition is minimised.

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13

The 180-degree hybrid finds numerous applications in RF and microwave engineering. They are widely available commercially in lumped (ferrite
core transformers) and distributed circuit (microstrip, stripline, waveguide) realisations, many of which have multi-octave bandwidth.

The 180-degree four port hybrid is also known as a Magic-T because of its waveguide realisation, e.g. [Montgomery, Dicke and Purcell (Eds.),
Principles of Microwave Circuits, Peter Peregrinus, 1987, Section 9.12 (Vol 8, MIT Radiation Laboratory Series, McGraw-Hill, 1948 with Errata], [D.M.
Pozar, Microwave Engineering, 2nd Edition, Wiley, 1998, Section 7.8].

Figure 9: Balancing approach using a 180-degree hybrid [McLean]

Here we consider the use of the 180-hybrid as antenna balun, Fig. 9 [McLean, Sections V and VI]. In the introduction it was stressed that a good
antenna balun must approximate the properties of an ideal current balun, Fig. 10 case (a). In other words, the instantaneous currents at the
balanced terminals must be equi-amplitude and anti-phase, irrespective of the balanced terminal potentials referred to ground at the unbalanced
terminal. Thus, the balanced winding is floating.

In contrast, the balanced winding of the ideal voltage balun, Fig. 10 case (b), has a centre-tap which is connected to the same ground as the

Figure 10: Ideal voltage and current baluns

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unbalanced winding.

Antenna Topics: Understanding Antenna Baluns

14

For antennas with electromagnetic symmetry, YA=YC in Fig. 10. For example a mechanically symmetric half-wave dipole or biconical antenna
mounted horizontally above a conducting ground plane (GP). Here both current and voltage baluns are acceptable.

However, when either of these antennas is rotated through 90 degrees to give vertical polarisation they present an asymmetric load, i.e. YAYC.
This is obvious since the arm which is closer to the GP is more strongly coupled to it. McLean gives excellent quantitative data which confirm this.

He further shows that the 180-hybrid, Fig. 9, will only act as a current balun if the sum () port is open-circuited (ZL ), and as a voltage balun if
the port is short-circuited (ZL 0). Note that this important result is consistent with physical intuition based on inspection of the 4th terminal
conditions of the ideal baluns, Fig. 10.

To conclude: It is good practice to leave the -port open-circuitedand not terminated in a matched load as required by most circuit
applicationswhenever using a 180-degree hybrid as an antenna balun.

Differential LNA for receive only antennas


Steady advances in MMIC (monolithic microwave integrated circuit) technology have made ultra-wide band LNAs (low noise amplifiers), with two
differential input ports and a single output port, feasible for frequencies up to 20 GHz and beyond.

The implication is that an antennas terminals can be connected directly to the LNAs differential input ports using a pair of low loss coaxial lines, and
so making it feasible to dispense entirely with a balun for receive applications.

This possibility is being considered as an upgrade for the Allen Telescope Array feed [Welch and Fleming].

Balance quality
The balance quality (BQ) of a balun is usually defined as the magnitude ratio, expressed in dB, of the common (unwanted) to differential (wanted)
current injected at the antenna terminals, over the antennas operating band. Some ingenious methods have been devised to measure this quantity,
[e.g. Woodward and Perlow], [Palmer and van Rooyen].

antenna input impedance at the centre frequency may be acceptable.

In practice the proof of the pudding usually lies in the eating. Thus the presence of common mode current on the feed line, and on the antenna
itself, is deduced indirectly by observing perturbations in the radiation pattern amplitude, phase and polarisation over the specified operating band.
Pozar and Kargonski [Pozar and Kargonski] graphically show the effect of amplitude and phase errors on the axial ratio of nominally circularly
polarised antennas.

References
- J.L.B. Walker et al., Classic Works in RF Engineering: Combiners, Couplers, Transformers and Magnetic Materials, Artech House, Boston, 2006.
- J.S. McLean, Balancing networks for symmetric antennas: Classification and fundamental operation, IEEE Trans Electromagnetic Compatibility,
vol. 44, no. 4, Nov. 2002, pp. 503-514. (Reprinted in J.L.B. Walker et al.)

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The preferred measure of BQ is made with the antenna in situ. If this is not practical, measurement with a resistive load which approximates the

Antenna Topics: Understanding Antenna Baluns

15

- H. Jasik (Ed.), Antenna Engineering Handbook, McGraw-Hill, 1961.


- J.D. Kraus and R.J. Marhefka, Antennas For All applications, 3rd Ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, 2002.
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Walker et al.)
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Propagation Symposium, Pretoria, May 1983, pp. K1-K9.
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Symposium on Antenna and Propagation & Microwave Theory and Techniques, Pretoria, August 1986, pp. 315-325.
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12, Dec. 2003, pp. 5197-5200.
- W.J. Welch and M. Fleming, Planned upgrade of the Allen Telescope Array feed, ATA memo #81, June 2009.
(http://ral.berkeley.edu/ata/memos/)
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Oct. 1983, pp. 821-824.
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and Measurement, vol. 55, no. 1, Feb. 2006, pp. 266-272.
- D.M. Pozar and S. Kargonski, Axial ratio of circularly polarized antennas with amplitude and phase errors, IEEE Antennas and Propagation
Magazine, October 1990, pp. 45-46.

This article was compiled for Antenna Magus by J.H. Cloete with contributions from D.E. Baker, K.D. Palmer and B.K. Woods.

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