The Smith Chart, Impedance Matching, and Transmission Line Circuits
A look back at much of what we did with transmission lines reveals that perhaps the dominant feature in all our calculations is the use of the reflection coefficient. The reflection coefficient was used to find the conditions on the line, to calculate the line impedance, and to calculate the standing wave ratio. Voltage, current, and power were all related to the reflection coefficient. The reflection coefficient, in turn, was defined in terms of the load and line impedances (or any equivalent load impedances such as at a discontinuity). You may also recall, perhaps with some fondness, the complicated calculations which required, in addition to the use of complex variables, the use of trigonometric and hyperbolic functions. Thus, the following proposition: Build a graphical chart (or an equivalent computer program) capable of representing the reflection coefficient as well as load impedances in some general fashion and you have a simple method of designing transmission line circuits without the need to perform rather tedious calculations. This has been accomplished in a rather general tool called the Smith chart. The Smith chart is a chart of normalized impedances (or admittances) in the reflection coefficient plane. As such, it allows calculations of all parameters related to transmission lines as well as impedances in open space, circuits, and the like. Although the Smith chart is rather old, it is a common design tool in electromagnetics. Some measuring instruments such as network analyzers actually use a Smith chart to display conditions on lines and networks. Naturally, any chart can also be implemented in a computer program, and the Smith chart has, but we must first understand how it works before we can use it either on paper or on the screen. A computerized Smith chart can then be used to analyze conditions on lines. The examples provided here are solved using graphical tools and a printed Smith chart, rather than the computer program, to emphasize the techniques and approximations involved.
KeywordsReflection Coefficient Transmission Line Characteristic Impedance Impedance Match Load Impedance
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