L Networks for Reactive Loads
September 1966 QST Article
L networks are probably
the most common types of impedance matching networks not just for antennas, but for an relatively
narrowband load. Determining the required values for the network is relatively simple using
well-established equations. Knowing how to use a Smith Chart makes the job even easier. This article
from a 1966 edition of QST presents the equation approach. If you have access to the May 2013
edition of QST, there is a complimentary article on L networks that uses the free Smith Chart
cross-platform Java software called SimSmith. If
you want to do a little complex number math, try the 1966 approach.
These articles are scanned and OCRed from old editions of the
ARRL's QST magazine. Here is a list of the
QST articles I have already posted. As time permits, I will
be glad to scan articles for you. All copyrights (if any) are hereby acknowledged.
See all available
vintage QST articles.
L Networks for Reactive Loads
By Robert E. Gordon,
Calculation for Matching Antenna System to Transmitter
The usual L-network formulas for transforming an antenna-system impedance to a value appropriate for the transmitter
assume that the antenna impedance is a pure resistance. The author observes that this condition seldom occurs in
practice, and proceeds to discuss the more prevalent case of a complex antenna load.
Two L networks designed by the author. To the right, the 3950-kc. network sketched in Fig. 4 is shown enclosed
in a coffee can. The 14-Mc. network to the left was photographed before mounting in a similar shielding enclosure.
Fig. 1 - L-network configurations, (A) for stepping up the input impedance, (B) for stepping the input impedance
Fig. 2 - Formulas and configuration for the case where the resistive component of the load impedance is smaller
than the desired load for the transmitter.
Fig. 3 - Inductive and capacitive elements in an L network may be transposed with suitable changes in values,
as discussed in the text. Values shown here are for the author's case of transforming a measured 17 - j6.5 antenna
load at 3950 kc. to 50 ohms resistive for the transmitter.
Fig. 4 - Sketch showing the construction of the network of Fig.3A.
Fig. 5 - Configuration and formulas for an L network for the case where the resistive component of the load
impedance is larger than the desired load for the transmitter.
An article by W8CGD
in an earlier issue of QST1 describes an inexpensive device for measuring antenna or other complex impedances,
with ample accuracy for most purposes. I have made use of it in designing L networks to transform odd antenna impedances
to the 50-ohm resistive load my transmitter prefers.
The Handbook formulas for the design of L networks
are limited to cases of transforming pure resistances. Unfortunately, a feed-point impedance which contains no reactive
component is about as rare as a dodo. Accordingly, I derived formulas for transforming any load impedance to a pure
resistance of any desired value.
The L network has two possible configurations. When the resistive component
of the load is greater than the desired generator resistance (RO>RI), the parallel element
will be on the load side, as shown in Fig. 1A. Conversely, when the resistive component of the load is less than
desired generator resistance (RO<RI), the parallel element will be on the generator side,
as shown at B. In the case of a load resistance equal to the desired generator resistance it is not necessary to
use the formulas, since it is apparent that compensation will be required for the reactive component only and this
may be obtained by a single series clement having the same numerical value of reactance as that contained in the
load, but of the opposite sign. For example, if we wish to present a 50-ohm resistive load to the transmitter, and
the antenna impedance measures 50 - j30 (capacitive), we would place an inductor of reactance +j30 in series with
the antenna. The transmitter will now see 50 - j30 + j30, or simply 50 ohms, resistive.
The formulas for
the two networks of Fig. 1 are different, so we will look at them one at a time, and work out an example for each.
In all of these formulas, the subscript I refers to the input resistance of the network, O to the output impedance
of the network, and S and P to the series and parallel network reactances, respectively. Hence, if we are trying
to match a transmitter to an antenna, RI represents the desired resistive load we wish to present to
the transmitter, and RO + jXO represents the actual antenna impedance which we have measured.
The Step-Down L Network
We will start with the case where the resistive part of
our load (RO) is less than the desired input resistance (RI). See Fig. 2 for the network sketch
and formulas. The factor A has been introduced to simplify the arithmetic. My transmitter, which is designed to
operate into a 50-ohm resistive load, would not tune up to the antenna on 3950 kc. Measurement on the antenna using
W8CGD's device showed the reason: a measured impedance of 17 - j6.5.
Here is how we proceed to design the
required L network:
RI = 50 ohms
RO = 17 ohms
jXO = -j6.5 ohms
2) jXS = - jXO + jROA
= j6.5 + j(17)(1.393)
3) The plus sign
tells us that the required reactance is inductive.
The inductance required to yield a reactance of 30.2
ohms at 3950 kc. is then:
5) The minus sign tells us that this reactance is capacitive. The capacitance required to provide a reactance
of 35.9 ohms at 3950 kc. is:
The circuit is then as shown in Fig. 3A.
Now, on to the junk box. It produced a 1000-and a 200-pf. mica
capacitor, and a piece of 5/8-inch 16-pitch coil stock. The Handbook graph says 10 1/2 turns of this will come pretty
close to 1.23 µh., and the capacitance is pretty close to what we need. Adding one coffee can, coax and connectors,
and a couple of hours in the cellar, produced the object shown in the sketch of Fig. 4 and the photo. With this
network patched into the antenna lead, the previously-reluctant transmitter now loads without difficulty from 3900
to 4000 kc,
Before leaving this topic, it should be mentioned that there is also another pair of reactance
values which would do the same job if the inductive and capacitive elements are transposed. The values required
may be computed in the same manner as given in the example, but using these formulas:
jXS = - -jXO - jROA
jXP = - -jRI/A
where A has the same meaning indicated earlier.
Using the data of the foregoing example, these formulas
yield results as follows:
jXS = - j17.2 CS = 2350 pf.
jXP = j35.9 LP = 1.44 µh.
circuit is as shown in Fig. 3B.
A network using these values would have performed equally well, but the
required components are larger, and the internal d.c. ground on the coax center conductor found in most transmitters
would be blocked from the antenna by the series capacitor. It may be worthwhile to figure the values both ways,
and choose the arrangement you like best.
The Step-Up L Network
The other network
configuration (Fig. 1A) must be used when the resistive part of our load (RO) is greater than the desired
input resistance (RI). See Fig. 5 for the network sketch and formulas. None of my antenna measurements
produced values of RO greater than the desired RI, so I have invented some values, for the
purpose of an example, as follows:
RI = 50 ohms
RO = 70 ohms
= +j20 ohms
ƒ = 14.1 megacycles
1) ZO2 = RO2 + XO2
= (70)2 + (20)2
= 4900 +
400 = 5300
(It will be noticed that j was shifted from the denominator to the numerator with a change of sign. This is
accomplished by multiplying both numerator and denominator by - j.)
As in our previous case, there is another pair of values which will also do the same job, obtainable by the
Again using our same data, these formulas yield results as follows:
jXS = - j35.8
CS = 317 pf.
LP = 1.99 µh.
A network using these values would
do the same impedance-matching job as the preceding one.
As a concluding comment applicable to both network
configurations, I would point out that in some cases both the series and parallel elements will be of the same kind
(L or C), so if you come out with this result it doesn't necessarily signal an error in arithmetic.
photograph shows the coffee-can job described earlier, together with a prototype 20-meter job which, not being canned,
is more photogenic. It has since been canned to reduce undesired local radiation. This one, you will notice, required
two inductors. The companion set of formulas yielded an LC combination, but Miniductor is a lot easier to trim to
size than a molded mica brick.
These networks have been wholly successful in enabling me to feed my NCX-5
transceiver into a trap dipole, with plenty of room to spare on the transmitter adjustment, where previously it
had been impossible to achieve the manufacturer's recommended conditions of loading.
I should like to acknowledge
the many helpful suggestions of Doyle Strandlund, W8CGD, during the preparation of this article.
a few hours of effort, you can really transform the needles, noodles, and wet string to 50 + j0. Who will be the
first to build an d. noodle drier?
1 Strandlund, "Amateur Measurement, of R +
jX," QST, June, 1965.