Transmission Lines: Quarter-Wave Transformer

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We are now aware of the fundamental properties of transmission lines, which are very important in electronics and antenna theory for microwave frequencies (anything above 600 MHz). On this page, we'll look at using the properties of a transmission line to our advantage. The first application is in impedance matching, with the quarter-wave transformer.

Quarter-Wave Transformer

Recall our formula for the input impedance of a transmission line of length L with characteristic impedance Z0 and connected to a load with impedance ZA:

input impedance of tx line

An interesting thing happens when the length of the line is a quarter of a wavelength:

input impedance of quarter wave line

The above equation is important: it states that by using a quarter-wavelength of transmission line, the impedance of the load (ZA) can be transformed via the above equation. The utility of this operation can be seen via an example.

Example. Match a load with impedance ZA=100 Ohms to be 50 Ohms using a quarter-wave transformer, as shown below.

quarter wave transformer

Solution: The problem is to determine Z0 (the characteristic impedance of our quarter-wavelength transmission line) such that the 100 Ohm load is matched to 50 Ohms. By applying the above equation, the problem is simple:

impedance matching with quarter-wave transformer

Hence, by using a transmission line with a characteristic impedance of 70.71 Ohms, the 100 Ohm load is matched to 50 Ohms. Hence, if a transmitter has an impedance of 50 Ohms and is trying to deliver power to the load (antenna), no power will be reflected back to the transmitter. In general, impedance matching is very important in RF/microwave circuit design. It is relatively simple at a single frequency, but becomes very difficult if wideband impedance matching is desired.

This technique is commonly employed with patch antennas. Circuits are printed as shown in the following figure. A 50 Ohm microstrip transmission line is matched to a patch antenna (impedance typically 200 Ohms or more) via a quarter-wavelength microstrip transmission line with the characteristic impedance chosen to match the load.

microstrip transmission line quarter-wave transformer

Because the quarter-wavelength transmission line is only a quarter-wavelength at a single frequency, this is a narrow-band matching technique. In the next section, we'll look at more uses of transmission lines.

Next: More Uses for Transmission Lines

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