TYPES OF TRANSMISSION MEDIUMS
The Navy uses many different types of TRANSMISSION MEDIUMS in its electronic applications. Each medium (line or waveguide) has a certain characteristic impedance value, current-carrying capacity, and physical shape and is designed to meet a particular requirement.
The five types of transmission mediums that we will discuss in this chapter include PARALLEL-LINE, TWISTED PAIR, SHIELDED PAIR, COAXIAL LINE, and WAVEGUIDES. The use of a particular line depends, among other things, on the applied frequency, the power-handling capabilities, and the type of installation.
NOTE: In the following paragraphs, we will mention LOSSES several times. We will discuss these losses more thoroughly under "LOSSES IN TRANSMISSION LINES."
Two-Wire Open Line
One type of parallel line is the TWO-WIRE OPEN LINE illustrated in figure 3-2. This line consists of two wires that are generally spaced from 2 to 6 inches apart by insulating spacers. This type of line is most often used for power lines, rural telephone lines, and telegraph lines. It is sometimes used as a transmission line between a transmitter and an antenna or between an antenna and a receiver. An advantage of this type of line is its simple construction. The principal disadvantages of this type of line are the high radiation losses and electrical noise pickup because of the lack of shielding. Radiation losses are produced by the changing fields created by the changing current in each conductor.
Figure 3-2. - Parallel two-wire line.
Another type of parallel line is the TWO-WIRE RIBBON (TWIN LEAD) illustrated in figure 3-3. This type of transmission line is commonly used to connect a television receiving antenna to a home television set. This line is essentially the same as the two-wire open line except that uniform spacing is assured by embedding the two wires in a low-loss dielectric, usually polyethylene. Since the wires are embedded in the thin ribbon of polyethylene, the dielectric space is partly air and partly polyethylene.
Figure 3-3. - Two-wire ribbon type line.
The TWISTED PAIR transmission line is illustrated in figure 3-4. As the name implies, the line consists of two insulated wires twisted together to form a flexible line without the use of spacers. It is not used for transmitting high frequency because of the high dielectric losses that occur in the rubber insulation. When the line is wet, the losses increase greatly.
Figure 3-4. - Twisted pair.
The SHIELDED PAIR, shown in figure 3-5, consists of parallel conductors separated from each other and surrounded by a solid dielectric. The conductors are contained within a braided copper tubing that acts as an electrical shield. The assembly is covered with a rubber or flexible composition coating that protects the line from moisture and mechanical damage. Outwardly, it looks much like the power cord of a washing machine or refrigerator.
Figure 3-5. - Shielded pair.
The principal advantage of the shielded pair is that the conductors are balanced to ground; that is, the capacitance between the wires is uniform throughout the length of the line. This balance is due to the uniform spacing of the grounded shield that surrounds the wires along their entire length. The braided copper shield isolates the conductors from stray magnetic fields.
There are two types of COAXIAL LINES, RIGID (AIR) COAXIAL LINE and FLEXIBLE (SOLID) COAXIAL LINE. The physical construction of both types is basically the same; that is, each contains two concentric conductors.
The rigid coaxial line consists of a central, insulated wire (inner conductor) mounted inside a tubular outer conductor. This line is shown in figure 3-6. In some applications, the inner conductor is also tubular. The inner conductor is insulated from the outer conductor by insulating spacers or beads at regular intervals. The spacers are made of pyrex, polystyrene, or some other material that has good insulating characteristics and low dielectric losses at high frequencies.
Figure 3-6. - Air coaxial line.
The chief advantage of the rigid line is its ability to minimize radiation losses. The electric and magnetic fields in a two-wire parallel line extend into space for relatively great distances and radiation losses occur. However, in a coaxial line no electric or magnetic fields extend outside of the outer conductor. The fields are confined to the space between the two conductors, resulting in a perfectly shielded coaxial line. Another advantage is that interference from other lines is reduced.
The rigid line has the following disadvantages: (1) it is expensive to construct; (2) it must be kept dry to prevent excessive leakage between the two conductors; and (3) although high-frequency losses are somewhat less than in previously mentioned lines, they are still excessive enough to limit the practical length of the line.
Leakage caused by the condensation of moisture is prevented in some rigid line applications by the use of an inert gas, such as nitrogen, helium, or argon. It is pumped into the dielectric space of the line at a pressure that can vary from 3 to 35 pounds per square inch. The inert gas is used to dry the line when it is first installed and pressure is maintained to ensure that no moisture enters the line.
Flexible coaxial lines (figure 3-7) are made with an inner conductor that consists of flexible wire insulated from the outer conductor by a solid, continuous insulating material. The outer conductor is made of metal braid, which gives the line flexibility. Early attempts at gaining flexibility involved using rubber insulators between the two conductors. However, the rubber insulators caused excessive losses at high frequencies.
Figure 3-7. - Flexible coaxial line.
Because of the high-frequency losses associated with rubber insulators, polyethylene plastic was developed to replace rubber and eliminate these losses. Polyethylene plastic is a solid substance that remains flexible over a wide range of temperatures. It is unaffected by seawater, gasoline, oil, and most other liquids that may be found aboard ship. The use of polyethylene as an insulator results in greater high-frequency losses than the use of air as an insulator. However, these losses are still lower than the losses associated with most other solid dielectric materials.
The WAVEGUIDE is classified as a transmission line. However, the method by which it transmits energy down its length differs from the conventional methods. Waveguides are cylindrical, elliptical, or rectangular (cylindrical and rectangular shapes are shown in figure 3-8). The rectangular waveguide is used more frequently than the cylindrical waveguide.
Figure 3-8. - Waveguides.
The term waveguide can be applied to all types of transmission lines in the sense that they are all used to guide energy from one point to another. However, usage has generally limited the term to mean a hollow metal tube or a dielectric transmission line. In this chapter, we use the term waveguide only to mean "hollow metal tube." It is interesting to note that the transmission of electromagnetic energy along a waveguide travels at a velocity somewhat slower than electromagnetic energy traveling through free space.
A waveguide may be classified according to its cross section (rectangular, elliptical, or circular), or according to the material used in its construction (metallic or dielectric). Dielectric waveguides are seldom used because the dielectric losses for all known dielectric materials are too great to transfer the electric and magnetic fields efficiently.
The installation of a complete waveguide transmission system is somewhat more difficult than the installation of other types of transmission lines. The radius of bends in the waveguide must measure greater than two wavelengths at the operating frequency of the equipment to avoid excessive attenuation. The cross section must remain uniform around the bend. These requirements hamper installation in confined spaces. If the waveguide is dented, or if solder is permitted to run inside the joints, the attenuation of the line is greatly increased. Dents and obstructions in the waveguide also reduce its breakdown voltage, thus limiting the waveguide's power-handling capability because of possible arc over. Great care must be exercised during installation; one or two carelessly made joints can seriously inhibit the advantage of using the waveguide.
We will not consider the waveguide operation in this module, since waveguide theory is discussed in NEETS, Module 11, Microwave Principles.
Q.4 List the five types of transmission lines in use today.