Common mode impedance of W2DU baluns

Walt Maxwell (W2DU) described a simple common mode choke or 1:1 current balun using ferrite sleeves slipped over a coaxial cable.

Fig 1:

Maxwell gives the choking impedance of two of his recommended chokes in Fig 21-3 from (Maxwell 2001). He does not give any detail of how he arrived at the curves, and in correspondence declined to give any detail.

This article focusses on a linear design for HF using 50 x FB-73-2401 (2673002402) ferrite sleeves.

The question that arises is how do you measure the impedance of a component that is 250+mm between terminals. Continue reading Common mode impedance of W2DU baluns

Thoughts on binocular ferrite core inductors at radio frequencies

Binocular ferrite cores are widely used, but not so widely understood.

Understanding inductors is an important first step to understanding transformers are they are coupled inductors.

The usual use of them is to make a winding of several turns around the central limb. One turn is a pass through both sides of the core around the central limb. Figures given in datasheets for Al or impedance rely upon that meaning of one turn.

A common assumption is that L=Al*n^2.

Note that published Al values are obtained by measurement typically at 10kHz and are not directly applicable at radio frequencies for core materials where the permeability µ is significantly different to µi (most ferrites). Notwithstanding this fact, most inductance calculators assume µ is not frequency dependent.

Let us measure a one turn winding on a practical binocular core for reference

Above is a measurement of R,X of a BN43-202 core with a one turn winding at 10MHz. X is  59.57Ω implying inductance of 0.95µH (assuming a simple two component model which does not capture self resonance effects). Datasheets for this core specify Al as 2200nH for one turn, yet we measure 950nH at 10MHz… proof of problems in simple application of Al.

Of course it is possible to make an inductor by passing a conductor once though one side of the binocular, a half turn if you like, but don’t let that label imply the impedance relative to a one turn winding.

Above is a measurement of a BN43-202 core with a ‘half turn’ winding.

If inductance followed the formula L=Al*n^2 and this was truly a half turn winding, we would expect the inductive reactance X ( 37.16Ω) to be one quarter or 25% of that of the single turn inductor (59.57Ω). Clearly it is not, it is 62%, the notion of a half turn or the formula or both have failed badly in this case.

Well on the back of that failure, lets try 1.5t.

Would we be brave or foolish to predict inductance will be 1.5^2 times that for one turn?

Above is a measurement of a BN43-202 core with a ‘one and a half turn’ winding.

If inductance followed the formula L=Al*n^2 and this was truly a half turn winding, we would expect the inductive reactance X ( 155.2Ω) to be 1.5^2 or 2.25 times that of the single turn inductor (59.57Ω). Clearly it is not, it is 2.60 times, the notion of a half turn or the formula or both have failed badly in this case.

Now let us look at Q, the ratio of X/R. The Q of the half turn inductor is 1.051, the one turn inductor is 1.022, and the one and a half turn inductor is 1.016. The quite small decrease in Q may be entirely due to the lower self resonant frequency as more turns are added and may not indicate a significant increase in core loss because of ‘half turn effects’ as sometimes claimed.

The error in conventional n^2 estimates of odd half turns becomes less significant with higher turns.


The traditional formula L=Al*n^2 does not apply to ferrite binocular cores at radio frequencies for odd half turns, and does not account for variation of permeability with frequency or influence of self resonance.

Understanding inductors is the first step to understanding transformers are they are coupled inductors.

G4YDM balun

G4YDM described his balun at Ham Radio – What Is a Balun and How to Make One Cheaply.

With a title like that it is sure to have wide appeal, but it isn’t anything too novel, it is simply an air solenoid of 50Ω coax cable as a common mode choke, commonly known as an Ugly Balun.

He gives some instructions for one of several constructions:

When wrapping your coax around the pipe don’t use too much force as it may damage the inner braid and space the turns away from each other by a millimetre or two. R-G-2-1-3 coax around 21 feet used with 5 inch pipe will handle 400 watts pf power.

Above is a pic of the third construction which appears to be 21′ of RG213 on a 5″ PVC former:

He gives some performance measurements adjacent to the pic above:

Using a dummy load connected to the choke and transmitting 100 watts from my transmitter indicated an S.W.R. readings of around 1.5 to 1 at 3.5 Megahertz when testing 28 Megahertz the S.W.R. reading came down to 1.1 to 1 which is an excellent match. …

The test described above seems to simply be a dummy load connected to one end of 21′ of RG213 and the transmitter with VSWR meter feeding the other end. To be meaningful we need to know the impedance of the dummy load, indeed to be meaningful it needs to be 50Ω, so lets assume that is the case. Continue reading G4YDM balun

Coil32 inductance calculator

A recent online posting gave unequivocal recommendation for the Coil32 Inductance Calculator for application to a ferrite toroidal HF current balun.

Always interested in these things, I tried to download it to evaluate it but there was rigmorol to create an account and aware that I have never downloaded a calculator that handled that specific problem at all well, I was reluctant.

They do however have some online calculators that are supposed to use the same algorithms and methods as the downloadable software, so lets review the one for a toroidal ferrite inductor.


Above is the data entry form, and warning bells sound. The “releative magnetic permeability” field is a simple scalar quantity, but the permeability of most ferrites at HF needs to be considered as a complex value (ie having real and imaginary components). Continue reading Coil32 inductance calculator

Optimal Zo for TLT sections challenge – a solution

Optimal Zo for Guanella balun sections left the reader with a though exercise, a transmission line transformer used by PA0V in a 144MHz power amplifier output network.

Clip 206

The pair of tabs to the left are driven by FET drains, the upper pink centre conductor is grounded, the lower end connecting to C1 is the output to a nominal 50R load. The network shown near OUT is for fine load adjustment. There are two coax sections making this TLT, shields bonded all the way around and the centre conductors connected as shown. What is the optimal value of Zo for each the coax sections?


Above is a pic of the PA, and we are looking at the network to the right of the dual FET. Continue reading Optimal Zo for TLT sections challenge – a solution

Optimal Zo for Guanella balun sections

A Guanella balun may have several sections, and they may be connected in parallel on one side and series on the other side so as to achieve nominal impedance transformation ratios other than 1.

The question is often asked, what is the optimal Zo for these line sections?

Several answers exist in ham lore, but the answer is relatively simple and revealed by the most basic understanding of transmission lines.

If you do not want standing waves on a line section and its associated impedance transformation, then make sure that Zo=V/I… easy as that.

(Guanella 1944) explains it with examples:

Screenshot - 09_07_16 , 15_55_57

Note above that he refers to coil systems. He did not describe for instance (b) on a single core, a shared magnetic circuit which would be a single core system, but he states clearly two coil systems. (Sevick 2001) and lots of other hams say otherwise, but they are wrong. Continue reading Optimal Zo for Guanella balun sections

W2AU 1:1 voltage balun

A very long time ago, I purchased a W2AU 1:1 balun on the maker’s claims that it was good from 1.8 to 30MHz.

These were very popular at the time, but as voltage baluns they achieve good current balance ONLY on very symmetric loads and so are not well suited to most wire antennas.

Above is W2AU’s illustration of the internals.

Mine barely saw service before it became obvious that it had an intermittent connection to the inner pin of the coax connector. That turned out to be a poor soldered joint, a problem that is apparently quite common and perhaps the result of not properly removing the wire enamel before soldering.

Having cut the enclosure to get at the innards and fix it (they were not intended to be repaired), I rebuilt it in a similar enclosure made from plumbing PVC pipe and caps, and took the opportunity to fit some different output terminals and an N type coax connector.

W2auBalun01Above is the rebuilt balun which since that day has been reserved for test kit for evaluating the performance of a voltage balun in some scenario or another. Continue reading W2AU 1:1 voltage balun

On copper loss in transmitting baluns

Designs appearing in the ham literature and online articles tend to espouse relatively large diameter conductors, conductors that can be challenging to wind onto the toroidal cores often used.

This article analyses the copper losses in a practical Guanella 1:1 balun where a fabricated twisted pair line is used.

Total losses comprise core losses and transmission line losses. Continue reading On copper loss in transmitting baluns

Improved cooling for the ATR-30

In Improved cooling for the MFJ-949E I described a solution to a problem of demonstrated overheating of the ATU at rated power, indeed at a lot less than rated power.

Though I have never measured the ATR-30 temperature rise, and am probably unlikely to stress the 3kW rated ATU with a 100W transmitter, I have performed a similar cooling modification to the ATR-30.

Continue reading Improved cooling for the ATR-30

On use of enamelled wire in transmitting baluns

I have published a number of transmitting balun designs, and none of them use enamelled wire. I am sometimes asked why is that so, but more often advised that it is a better solution than the wires that I have used.

Enamelled wire depends on an insulating coating, and its breakdown voltage depends on the wire diameter, polymer used, the minimum thickness applied, coating cure / bake processes, temperature, humidity etc.

Whilst I have seen specifications promising breakdown voltage of a single round enamelled wire in the regions of 5-10kV, and you might hope for nearly double that between a pair of twisted wires, unless you have source specific product, new performance may be closer to 2kV. Continue reading On use of enamelled wire in transmitting baluns