Balun: Wikis

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Pair of 120 Ohm twisted pair (Krone IDC) to 75 Ohm coaxial cable balun transformers. Actual length is about 3cm.
2 balun matching transformers

A balun, pronounced /ˈbæl.ʌn/ ("bal-un"), is a type of electrical transformer that can convert electrical signals that are balanced about ground (differential) to signals that are unbalanced (single-ended) and vice versa. They are also often used to connect lines of differing impedance.

Baluns can take many forms and their presence is not always obvious. They always use electromagnetic coupling for their operation.

Contents

Types of balun

Autotransformer 4:1 wideband balun using two windings on a ferrite rod.
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Autotransformer type

In an autotransformer, two coils on a ferrite rod can be used as a balun by winding the individual strands of enameled wire comprising the coil very tightly together. This winding can take one of two forms: either the two windings must be wound such that the two form a single layer where each turn is touching each of the adjacent turns of the other winding; or the two wires are twisted together before being wound into the coil.

Isolated transformer

Classical transformer type

Isolated transformers have a real impedance at a resonance frequency where self-inductance and self-capacitance for each individual winding cancel themselves out.

Transmission-line transformer type

Baluns can be considered as simple forms of transmission line transformers.

A more complex (and subtle) type results when the transformer type (magnetic coupling) is combined with the transmission line type (electro-magnetic coupling). This is where whole transmission lines are used as windings, resulting in devices capable of very wideband operation. This whole class known generally as "Transmission Line Transformers" spawn their own huge variety. Very commonly, they use small ferrite cores in toroidal or "binocular" shapes. Something as simple as 10 turns of coaxial cable coiled up on a diameter about the size of a dinner plate makes an extremely effective choke balun for frequencies from about 10MHz to beyond 30 MHz. The magnetic material may be "air", but it is a transmission line transformer.

Homemade 1:1 balun using a toroidal core and coaxial cable. This simple RF choke works as a balun by preventing signals passing along the outside of the braid. Such a device can be used to cure television interference by acting as a braid-breaker.

The Guanella transmission line transformer is often combined with a balun to act as an impedance matching transformer. Putting balancing aside a 1:4 transformer of this type consists of a 75 Ohm transmission line divided in parallel into two 150 Ohm cables, which are then combined in series for 300 Ohm. It is implemented as a specific wiring around the ferrite core of the balun.

Delay line type

A large class of baluns uses connected transmission lines of specific lengths, with no obvious "transformer" part. These are usually built for (narrow) frequency ranges where the lengths involved are some multiple of a quarter wavelength of the intended frequency in the transmission line medium. A common application is in making a coaxial connection to a balanced antenna, and designs include many types involving coaxial loops and variously connected "stubs".

One easy way to make a balun is a one-half wavelength (λ/2) length of coaxial cable. The inner core of the cable is linked at each end to one of the balanced connections for a feeder or dipole. One of these terminals should be connected to the inner core of the coaxial feeder. All three braids should be connected together. This then forms a 4:1 balun which works at only one frequency.

Another narrow band design is to use a λ/4 length of metal pipe. The coaxial cable is placed inside the pipe; at one end the braid is wired to the pipe while at the other end no connection is made to the pipe. The balanced end of this balun is at the end where the pipe is wired to the braid. The λ/4 conductor acts as a transformer converting the infinite impedance at the unconnected end into a zero impedance at the end connected to the braid. Hence any current entering the balun through the connection, which goes to the braid at the end with the connection to the pipe, will flow into the pipe. This balun design is not good for low frequencies because of the long length of pipe that will be needed. An easy way to make such a balun is to paint the outside of the coax with conductive paint, then to connect this paint to the braid.

Alternatives to baluns

An RF choke can be used in place of a balun. If a coil is made using coaxial cable near to the feed point of a balanced antenna then the RF current that flows on the outer surface of the coaxial cable can be attenuated. One way of doing this would be to wrap a lossy material, such as ferrite around the coaxial cable;

Applications

A balun's function is generally to achieve compatibility between systems, and as such, finds extensive application in modern communications, particularly in realising frequency conversion mixers to make cellular phone and data transmission networks possible. They are also used to convert an E1 carrier signal from coaxial cable to UTP CAT-5 cable.

Radio

A 75-to-300 ohm balun built into the antenna plug.

In television, amateur radio, and other antenna installations and connections, baluns convert between 300 ohm ribbon cable or 450 ohm ladder line (balanced) and 75 Ω coaxial cable (unbalanced) or to directly connect a balanced antenna to (unbalanced) coax. To avoid EMC problems it is a good idea to connect a centre fed dipole antenna to coaxial cable via a balun. Match 300 Ω twin-lead cable to 75 Ω coaxial cable

In electronic communications, baluns convert Twinax cables to Category 5 cables, and back, or they convert between coaxial cable and ladder line.

In measuring the impedance or radiation pattern of a balanced antenna using a coaxial cable, it is important to place a balun between the cable and the antenna feed. Unbalanced currents that may otherwise flow on the cable will make the measured antenna impedance sensitive to the configuration of the feed cable, and the radiation pattern of small antennas may be distorted by radiation from the cable.

Baluns are present in radars, transmitters, satellites, in every telephone network, and probably in most wireless network modem/routers used in homes. It can be combined with transimpedance amplifiers to compose high-voltage amplifiers out of low-voltage components.

Video

While not as high as most RF applications, baseband video still uses frequencies up to several megahertz. Since this bandwidth is now well within range of modern twisted-pair cables, they are now being used to send video which would otherwise run over coaxial cable. Many better security cameras now have both a balanced UTP output and an unbalanced coaxial one via an internal balun, though any camera can be used with an external balun. A balun is also used on the video recorder end to convert back from the 100-ohm balanced to 75-ohm unbalanced. A balun of this type has a BNC connector with two screw terminals. VGA/DVI baluns are baluns with electronic circuitry used to connect VGA/DVI sources (laptop, DVD, etc) to VGA/DVI display devices over long runs of CAT-5/CAT-6 cable. Runs over 400 feet may lose quality due to attenuation and variations in the arrival time of each signal. A skew control and special low skew or skew free cable is used for runs over 400 feet.

Audio

Three audio baluns (transformers).

In audio applications, baluns convert between high impedance (see Nominal impedance) unbalanced and low impedance balanced lines.

Except for the connections, the three devices in the image are electrically identical, but only the leftmost two can be used as baluns. The device on the left would normally be used to connect a high impedance source, such as a guitar, into a balanced microphone input, serving as a passive DI unit. The one in the centre is for connecting a low impedance balanced source, such as a microphone, into a guitar amplifier. The one at the right is not technically a balun, as it provides only impedance matching.

In power line communications, baluns are used in coupling signals onto a power line.

See also

References

  • Building and Using Baluns and Ununs: Practical Designs for the Experimenter, Jerry Sevick (W2FMI), 1994.
  • Radio communication handbook, Edition five, Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB), 1976, pages 12.41 and 13.5
  • SWDXER ¨The SWDXER¨ - with general SWL information and radio antenna tips.
  • Coaxial Balun Coaxial Balun sample by yagi-uda.com

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