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Understanding Transformer Operation in

Double-Balanced Diode Mixers

By Jerry Sevick
Bell Laboratories, retired

he double-balanced mixer has

T become very popular because of its

many advantages over single-
ended and single-balanced mixers. Those RF in

D1 A D2

LO in
advantages include good isolation
between the LO and RF ports, broadband
performance and suppression of even-
order harmonics of the LO and RF. The
mixer also has low VSWR at each port. D4 B D3
Figure 1 shows the use of four diodes in a
ring configuration. Although this mixer is
considered broadband, its high frequency
performance is limited by the transform- IF out
ers T1 and T2.
Because the outputs of T1 and T2 are ▲ Figure 1. Equivalent circuit of a double-balanced mixer using four diodes
in the zero-potential plane of each other, in a ring configuration.
there is substantial isolation and sup-
pression of even-order harmonics.
Although T1 and T2 are commonly called
baluns in this application, we will see T1 IRF T2
that they are not baluns. Specifically, I3
I3 I4 LO in
they should not be confused with trans- RF in
mission line transformer baluns. D1 D2

Double-balanced mixer operation C i1 i2 D

+ –
The local oscillator and four diodes act
as a switch. When terminal C is positive, IRF I4
terminal D is negative, and the amplitude
of the LO is sufficient to turn on the I3+I4
diodes, the bottom diodes are essentially
open-circuited and the two top diodes are IF out
short-circuits. This is shown in Figure 2.
Only the top half of the secondary of T1 is ▲ Figure 2. Currents when the bottom two diodes are switched off.
in operation, thus T1 is not a balun. T2
not only supplies the LO voltage, it also
combines the RF and IF currents. The diagram does not diode currents, in turn, contain these frequencies. Their
show the typical filter which passes the IF current and sum and difference frequencies are also present, due to
shorts to ground (or, preferably, resistively terminates) the diodes’ nonlinearity. The difference frequency is typ-
the RF and other unwanted output frequencies. ically used as the intermediate frequency (IF), following
Assuming that the diodes are operating in the square- common practice of recovering (or applying) the lowest
law region of their current curves, i1 is proportional to frequency at the IF port.
(VC – VA)2 and i2 is proportional to (VA – VD)2. Since Transformer T2 looks like T1 in Figure 1, but it also
these voltages have both RF and IF frequencies, the has the function of combining the RF and IF currents.


LO+ voltage to diodes T2 has three windings with two con-
LO in +
RF & IF voltages from diodes nected as a combiner, as shown in
5 3 1 Figure 3.

Primary Secondary Conclusion

IF out
winding windings It was shown that T1 is a conven-
tional transformer and that T2 is a
6 4 2 combiner with a conventional trans-
LO– voltage to diodes former winding for LO coupling.
LO in –
RF & IF voltages from diodes
These transformers are often mis-
▲ Figure 3. Schematic of T2, a split secondary combiner. takenly identified as transmission
line transformers because they are
typically wound with three twisted
wires. In this case, the twisted wires
do not create a transmission line,
but instead are used to maximize the
coupling coefficient in an ordinary
transformer where separate primary
and secondary windings are coupled
by magnetic flux. ■

Author information
Jerry Sevick is retired from Bell
Laboratories and occasionally pro-
vides consulting services to the RF
industry. He has a B.S. from Wayne
State University and a Ph.D. in
Applied Physics from Harvard
University. His work at Bell
Laboratories involved high-frequen-
cy transistors and integrated cir-
cuits and he is also well-known for
his personal investigations of small
antennas and transmission line
transformers. Jerry can be reached
at 32 Granville Way, Basking Ridge,
NJ 07920.

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