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A balun // is an electrical device that converts between a balanced signal (two signals working against each other where ground is irrelevant) and an unbalanced signal (a single signal working against ground or pseudo-ground). A balun can take many forms and may include devices that also transform impedances but need not do so. Transformer baluns can also be used to connect lines of differing impedance. The origin of the word balun is balance + unbalance.
Baluns can take many forms and their presence is not always obvious. Sometimes, in the case of transformer baluns, they use magnetic coupling but need not do so. Common-mode chokes are also used as baluns and work by eliminating, rather than ignoring, common mode signals.
A variation of this device is the UNUN, which transfers signal from one unbalanced line to another.
Types of balun
Generally a balun consists of two wires (primary and secondary) and a toroid core: it converts the electrical energy of the primary wire into a magnetic field. Depending on how the secondary wire is done, the magnetic field is converted back to an electric field.
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.
The two windings are joined to become a single coil. The end of one of the windings, on one side of the coil, is connected to the end of the other winding on the other side of the coil. This point then becomes the ground for the unbalanced circuit. One of the remaining ends is connected to the ungrounded side of the unbalanced circuit and one side of the balanced circuit. Finally, the other side of the balanced circuit is connected to the remaining end.
Classical transformer type
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 transmission lines are used as windings, resulting in devices capable of very wideband operation. "Transmission line transformers" commonly 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 10 MHz to beyond 30 MHz. The magnetic material may be "air", but it is a transmission line transformer.
The Guanella transmission line transformer (Guanella 1944) 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 Ω transmission line divided in parallel into two 150 Ω cables, which are then combined in series for 300 Ω. 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. 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.
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 pass the cable through a ferrite toroid.(Straw 2005, 25-26)
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 (BNC connector,1.0/2.3 connector,1.6/5.6 connector,Type43 connectors) to UTP CAT-5 cable or IDC connector.
Radio and television
In television, amateur radio, and other antenna installations and connections, baluns convert between impedances and symmetry of feedlines and antennas. For example transformation of 300 Ω twin-lead or 450 Ω ladder line (balanced) and 75 Ω coaxial cable (unbalanced), or to directly connect a balanced antenna to unbalanced coaxial cable. To avoid feed line radiation, baluns are typically used as a form of common mode choke attached at the antenna feed point to prevent the coaxial cable from acting as an antenna and radiating power. This typically is needed when a balanced antenna (for instance, a dipole) is fed with coax; without a balun, the shield of the coax could couple with one side of the dipole, inducing common mode current, and becoming part of the antenna and unintentionally radiating.
When it comes to transmitting antennas the choice of the toroid core is crucial. A rule of thumb is: the more power the bigger the core.
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.
Baseband video uses frequencies up to several megahertz. A balun can be used to couple video signals to twisted-pair cables instead of using coaxial cable. Many security cameras now have both a balanced unshielded twisted pair (UTP) output and an unbalanced coaxial one via an internal balun. A balun is also used on the video recorder end to convert back from the 100 Ω balanced to 75 Ω 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 130 m (400 ft) 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 130 m (400 ft).
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In audio applications, baluns convert between high impedance (see Nominal impedance) unbalanced and low impedance balanced lines. Another application is decoupling of devices (avoidance of earth loops).
A third application of baluns in audio systems is in the provision of balanced mains power to the equipment. Due to the common-mode rejection of interference characteristic of balanced mains power, a wide range of noise coming from the wall plug is eliminated, e.g. mains-borne interference from air conditioner/furnace/refrigerator motors, switching noise produced by fluorescent lighting and dimmer switches, digital noise from personal computers, and radio frequency signals picked up by the power lines/cords acting as antennae. This noise infiltrates the audio/video system through the power supplies and raises the noise floor of the entire system.
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 a balun, as it provides only impedance matching.
- In power line communications, baluns are used in coupling signals onto a power line.
- In electronic communications, baluns convert Twinax cables to Category 5 cables, and back.
- Electromagnetic interference
- Ferrite bead
- Magnetic core
- Toroidal inductors and transformers
- Unintentional radiator
- Sevick 1990, pp. 1-1
- Baluns: What They Do And How They Do It (W7EL) http://www.eznec.com/Amateur/Articles/Baluns.pdf
- Feeding a Dipole Antenna with a Balun
- Toroid Cores for 1:4 Baluns (DG3OBK) http://www.aroesner.homepage.t-online.de/balun.html
- Balanced Power Technologies http://www.b-p-t.com/
- Guanella, G. "New method of impedance matching in radio-frequency circuits." Brown Boveri Review, September 1944: 329–329.
- Sevick, Jerry (W2FMI). Transmission Line Transformer, The American Radio Relay League, 1990, ISBN 0-87259-296-0.
- Sevick, Jerry (W2FMI). Building and Using Baluns and Ununs: Practical Designs for the Experimenter. 1994.
- Radio communication handbook, 5th ed. (Radio Society of Great Britain, 1976) 12.41, 13.5.
- Straw, R. Dean. ARRL Antenna Book. 20th ed. (Newington, CT: American Radio Relay League, 2005) ISBN 0-87259-904-3.