Stacking two ferrite cores of different permeability for an RF inductor

One of the magic ham recipes often proposed is to stack two ferrite cores of different permeability for an RF inductor, but an explanation is rarely offered, I have not seen one.

An explanation

Starting with some basic magnetism…

The inductance of an inductor is given by \(L=N\frac{\phi}{I}\).

For a closed magnetic circuit of high permeability such as a ferrite cored toroid, the flux is almost entirely contained in the core and the relationship is \(\mathcal{F}=\phi \mathcal{R}\) where \(\mathcal{F}\) is the magnetomotive force, \(\phi\) is the flux, and \(\mathcal{R}\) is the magnetic reluctance. (Note the similarity to Ohm’s law.)

Rearranging that we have \(\phi=\frac{\mathcal{F}}{\mathcal{R}}\).

Permeance \(\mathcal{P}=\frac1{\mathcal{R}}\) we can rewrite the above as \(\phi=\mathcal{F} \mathcal{P}\). Permeances of parallel magnetic paths add, so if we stack two cores sharing the same winding, the total permeance is the sum of that of each core \(\mathcal{P}_t=\mathcal{P}_1+\mathcal{P}_2+…\).

So, returning to the inductance of the toroidal ferrite cored inductor, we can write that \(L=N \frac{\mathcal{F} \mathcal{P}}{I}\) and since \(\mathcal{F}=N I\), \(L=N \frac{N I \mathcal{P}}{I}\) which simplifies to \(L=N^2 \mathcal{P}\).

Now for a toroid \(\mathcal{P}=\mu\frac{A}{2 \pi r}\) and so \(L=N^2\mu\frac{A}{2 \pi r}\). Since A=f(r), we must integrate A over r. (Note that \(\mu=\mu_0 \mu_r=4e-7 \pi\mu_r\).)

Inductance of a toroidal ferrite cored inductor then is given by \(L=\mu N^2 \int \frac{A}{2 \pi r}dr\) (noting that µ is a complex quantity and frequency dependent). More properly, the ‘inductor’ is a resonator and as you approach its self resonant frequency, inductance alone is not an adequate model… nevertheless consideration of the simpler inductance calculation gives valuable insight.

If we stack two cores of the same physical size side by side, then µ is not uniform across the cross section, so we must capture µ in the integral \(L=N^2 \int \frac{\mu A}{2 \pi r}dr\).

In the simple case where we stack n1 cores of µ1 and n2 cores of µ2, then the expression can be simplified to \(L=(n_1  \mu_1 + n_2  \mu_2) N^2 \int \frac{A}{2 \pi r}dr\) where \(\frac{A}{2 \pi r}\) is the geometry of the consituent cores.

Readers will see that stacking one #61 mix core with one #43 mix core of the same sizes is roughly equivalent to a core of the combined cross section area with µ characteristic an average of the two mixes.

This is not equivalent to series connection of two separate inductors with each core type and same number of turns, the effects around self resonances will differ. Since to some extent, common mode chokes rely upon self resonance (albeit low Q) for their operation, this difference in response is quite relevant. Dissipation capacity is likely to be different.

In the light of that understanding, put your thinking cap on when you see magic properties ascribed to this configuration.

Note, this analysis does not address the behavior near or above the self resonant frequency.