Quantcast Reflections on a transmission line characteristic impedance since it is sometimes operated as an OPEN-ENDED line and other times as a SHORT-CIRCUIT at the receiving end. If the line is open-ended, it has a terminating impedance that is infinitely large. If a line is not terminated in characteristic impedance, it is said to be finite. ">

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If any other unit length had been considered, the values of L and C would be different, but their ratio would remain the same as would the characteristic impedance.


Transmission line characteristics are based on an infinite line. A line cannot always be terminated in its characteristic impedance since it is sometimes operated as an OPEN-ENDED line and other times as a SHORT-CIRCUIT at the receiving end. If the line is open-ended, it has a terminating impedance that is infinitely large. If a line is not terminated in characteristic impedance, it is said to be finite.

When a line is not terminated in Z0, the incident energy is not absorbed but is returned along the only path available - the transmission line. Thus, the behavior of a finite line may be quite different from that of the infinite line.


The equivalent circuit of an open-ended transmission line is shown in figure 3-24, view A. Again, losses are to be considered as negligible, and L is lumped in one branch. Assume that (1) the battery in this circuit has an internal impedance equal to the characteristic impedance of the transmission line (Zi = Z0); (2) the capacitors in the line are not charged before the battery is connected; and (3) since the line is open-ended, the terminating impedance is infinitely large.

Figure 3-24. - Reflection from an open-ended line.

When the battery is connected to the sending end as shown, a negative voltage moves down the line. This voltage charges each capacitor, in turn, through the preceding inductor. Since Ziequals Z0, one-half the applied voltage will appear across the internal battery impedance, Zi, and one-half across the impedance of the line, Z0. Each capacitor is then charged to E/2 (view B). When the last capacitor in the line is charged, there is no voltage across the last inductor and current flow through the last inductor stops. With no current flow to maintain it, the magnetic field in the last inductor collapses and forces current to continue to flow in the same direction into the last capacitor. Because the direction of current has not changed, the capacitor charges in the same direction, thereby increasing the charge in the capacitor. Since the energy in the magnetic field equals the energy in the capacitor, the energy transfer to the capacitor doubles the voltage across the capacitor. The last capacitor is now charged to E volts and the current in the last inductor drops to zero.

At this point, the same process takes place with the next to the last inductor and capacitor. When the magnetic field about the inductor collapses, current continues to flow into the next to the last capacitor, charging it to E volts. This action continues backward down the line until the first capacitor has been fully charged to the applied voltage. This change of voltage, moving backward down the line, can be thought of in the following manner. The voltage, arriving at the end of the line, finds no place to go and returns to the sending end with the same polarity (view C). Such action is called REFLECTION.

When a reflection of voltage occurs on an open-ended line, the polarity is unchanged. The voltage change moves back to the source, charging each capacitor in turn until the first capacitor is charged to the source voltage and the action stops (view D). As each capacitor is charged, current in each inductor drops to zero, effectively reflecting the current with the opposite polarity (view C). Reflected current of opposite polarity cancels the original current at each point, and the current drops to zero at that point. When the last capacitor is charged, the current from the source stops flowing (view D).

Important facts to remember in the reflection of dc voltages in open-ended lines are:

  • Voltage is reflected from an open end without change in polarity, amplitude, or shape.
  • Current is reflected from an open end with opposite polarity and without change in amplitude or shape.


A SHORT-CIRCUITED line affects voltage change differently from the way an open-circuited line affects it. The voltage across a perfect short circuit must be zero; therefore, no power can be absorbed in the short, and the energy is reflected toward the generator.

The initial circuit is shown in figure 3-25, view A. The initial voltage and current waves (view B) are the same as those given for an infinite line. In a short-circuited line the voltage change arrives at the last inductor in the same manner as the waves on an open-ended line. In this case, however, there is no capacitor to charge. The current through the final inductor produces a voltage with the polarity shown in view C. When the field collapses, the inductor acts as a battery and forces current through the capacitor in the opposite direction, causing it to discharge (view D). Since the amount of energy stored in the magnetic field is the same as that in the capacitor, the capacitor discharges to zero.

Figure 3-25. - Reflection from a short-circuited line.

Now there is no voltage to maintain the current through the next to the last inductor. Therefore, this inductor discharges the next to the last capacitor.

As each capacitor is discharged to zero, the next inductor effectively becomes a new source of voltage. The amplitude of each of these voltages is equal to E/2, but the polarity is the opposite of the battery at the input end of the line. The collapsing field around each inductor, in turn, produces a voltage that forces the current to continue flowing in the same direction, adding to the current from the source to make it 2I. This action continues until all the capacitors are discharged (view E).

Reflected waves from a short-circuited transmission line are characterized as follows:

  • The reflected voltage has the opposite polarity but the same amplitude as the incident wave.
  • The reflected current has the same polarity and the same amplitude as the incident current.


In most cases where rf lines are used, the voltages applied to the sending end are ac voltages. The action at the receiving end of the line is exactly the same for ac as for dc. In the open-ended line, shown in figure 3-26, view A, the generated ac voltage is distributed along the line, shown in view B. This voltage is distributed in such a way that as each instantaneous voltage arrives at the end, it is reflected with the same polarity and amplitude. When ac is used, this reflection is in phase. Each of the reflected voltages travels back along the line until it reaches the generator. If the generator impedance is the same as the line impedance, energy arriving at the generator is absorbed and not reflected again. Now two voltages are on the line.

Figure 3-26. - Formation of standing waves.

View B shows how two waves of the same frequency and amplitude moving in opposite directions on the same conductor will combine to form a resultant wave. The small solid line is moving steadily from left to right and is the INCIDENT WAVE (from the source). The broken-line waveform is moving from right to left and is the REFLECTED WAVE. The resultant waveform, the heavy line, is found by algebraically adding instantaneous values of the two waveforms. The resultant waveform has an instantaneous peak amplitude that is equal to the sum of the peak amplitudes of the incident and reflected waves. Since most indicating instruments are unable to separate these voltages, they show the vector sum. An oscilloscope is usually used to study the instantaneous voltages on rf lines.

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