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Transmission-line-losses

The discussion of transmission lines so far has not directly addressed LINE LOSSES; actually some line losses occur in all lines. Line losses may be any of three typesóCOPPER, DIELECTRIC, and RADIATION or INDUCTION LOSSES.

NOTE: Transmission lines are sometimes referred to as rf lines. In this text the terms are used interchangeably.



Copper Losses

One type of copper loss is I2R LOSS. In rf lines the resistance of the conductors is never equal to zero. Whenever current flows through one of these conductors, some energy is dissipated in the form of heat. This heat loss is a POWER LOSS. With copper braid, which has a resistance higher than solid tubing, this power loss is higher.

Another type of copper loss is due to SKIN EFFECT. When dc flows through a conductor, the movement of electrons through the conductor's cross section is uniform. The situation is somewhat different when ac is applied. The expanding and collapsing fields about each electron encircle other electrons. This phenomenon, called SELF INDUCTION, retards the movement of the encircled electrons.

The flux density at the center is so great that electron movement at this point is reduced. As frequency is increased, the opposition to the flow of current in the center of the wire increases. Current in the center of the wire becomes smaller and most of the electron flow is on the wire surface. When the frequency applied is 100 megahertz or higher, the electron movement in the center is so small that the center of the wire could be removed without any noticeable effect on current.

You should be able to see that the effective cross-sectional area decreases as the frequency increases. Since resistance is inversely proportional to the cross-sectional area, the resistance will increase as the frequency is increased. Also, since power loss increases as resistance increases, power losses increase with an increase in frequency because of skin effect.

Copper losses can be minimized and conductivity increased in an rf line by plating the line with silver. Since silver is a better conductor than copper, most of the current will flow through the silver layer. The tubing then serves primarily as a mechanical support.

Dielectric Losses

DIELECTRIC LOSSES result from the heating effect on the dielectric material between the conductors. Power from the source is used in heating the dielectric. The heat produced is dissipated into the surrounding medium. When there is no potential difference between two conductors, the atoms in the dielectric material between them are normal and the orbits of the electrons are circular. When there is a potential difference between two conductors, the orbits of the electrons change. The excessive negative charge on one conductor repels electrons on the dielectric toward the positive conductor and thus distorts the orbits of the electrons. A change in the path of electrons requires more energy, introducing a power loss.

The atomic structure of rubber is more difficult to distort than the structure of some other dielectric materials. The atoms of materials, such as polyethylene, distort easily. Therefore, polyethylene is often used as a dielectric because less power is consumed when its electron orbits are distorted.

Radiation and Induction Losses

RADIATION and INDUCTION LOSSES are similar in that both are caused by the fields surrounding the conductors. Induction losses occur when the electromagnetic field about a conductor cuts through any nearby metallic object and a current is induced in that object. As a result, power is dissipated in the object and is lost.

Radiation losses occur because some magnetic lines of force about a conductor do not return to the conductor when the cycle alternates. These lines of force are projected into space as radiation and this results in power losses. That is, power is supplied by the source, but is not available to the load.

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