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The Wilkinson

Hybrid and its


By Doc Daugherty

Senior Broadcast Technology Instructor

Harris Corporation, Broadcast Division
11/04/02 The Wilkinson Hybrid and its Derivations

1 The Wilkinson Hybrid and its Derivations

Transmission lines can be used to create RF circuit combiners and splitters (hybrids) of
several types. One of the basic types of splitter/combiners is the Wilkinson hybrid. Several
other types of hybrids, including the Rat Race and the Gysel combiners, are derivations of

the Wilkinson.

1.1 The Wilkinson Hybrid

The Wilkinson combiner is a device that is used to match the output impedance of two or
more RF amplifiers to a lo ad im pedance (usually a tr ansmission lin e). I t h as three
1 The output power of each amplifier is combin ed into on e unb alanced o utput with
minimal loss. The combiners normal output level is the sum of the individual amplifier
2 The second advantage of the Wilkinson combiner is good isolation between amplifiers.
If one amplifier should happen to fail, the other one still functions into a perfect load.
Its operation is not impaired by the failed amplifier, as would be the case if the two or
more amplifiers were connected directly in parallel. In the case of two amplifiers, if
one failed, the combiner output level would fall to 1/4 of its normal combined power
(1/2 the power of one amplifier).
3 All of the amplifiers that are to be combined are operated in phase. The main advan-
tages here is that it makes the RF cabling simpler, reducing the problems that might
occur if the wrong cable were connected to the wrong amplifier. Another advantage is
that when a reflected signal arrives back at the outputs of the combined amplifiers, it
will change all of their operating parameters in the same way.

In the quarter wavelength hybrid, where the amplifier outputs must be
held 90 degrees out of phase to combine properly, the reflected signal
will change the output parameters of each amplifier differently, stress-
ing one amplifier more than the other.

The Wilkinson combiner can also be used as power splitter. It has the same advantages as
when used as a combiner, low loss and good isolation between loads.

The normal operating condition of this combiner is that the amplifiers have a 50 Ω output
impedance and th e load ( output line) h as a 50 Ω input impedance. To accomp lish th is
impedance matching an d co mbining, th is combiner tak es advantage o f th e impedance
inverting properties of a 1/4 wavelength section of transmission line. To operate properly,
the amplifiers that feed this combiner must have the same power output levels, their output
signals must be in phase, and each amplifier must see the same load impedance.

In Figure 1-1, the 50Ω load is fed by the output of the two 70.7Ω, 1/4 wavelength transmis-
sion lines. Since voltage and currents fed by each of the two 70.7Ω lines are in phase and
at the same level, each line sees a 100Ω load impedance.

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The Wilkinson Hybrid and its Derivations 11/04/02

To understand this point, remember that the voltage at the two 70.7Ω line outputs and the
50Ω line input is the same, since this is the same point in the circuit. The 50Ω output line
current is the sum of the currents of the two feed lines, therefore the current level of each
feed line is 1/2 of the output current.

Eout Eout
If 50Ω = ------------ then ------------------------ = 100Ω
Iout 0.5 × I out

Applying t he 7 0.7Ω l ine i mpedance and t he 1 00Ω lo ad im pedance to th e im pedance

matching f ormula f or th e 1 /4 wav elength m atching section, th e r esult is a 50Ω so urce
impedance for each 70.7Ω line. This 50Ω source impedance is the load impedance for each

2 2
ZO 70.7 4998
Z S = --------- = ------------- = ------------ = 49.98ohms (50 ohms)
ZL 100 100

Where: ZS = the source impedance,

ZO = the line impedance, and
ZL = the load impedance.

The balancing resistor (RBal) that connects the outputs of each amplifier is invisible to the
circuit, because the voltage at each end of the resistor (the amplifier’s outputs) are in phase
and at the same amplitude, therefore no current flows through the resistor. This gives RBal
an apparent infinite resistance.

50Ω 50Ω λ/4

Amp Zo = 70.7Ω
100Ω 50Ω
RBal = 100Ω Zo = 50Ω
100Ω RL = 50Ω
Amp Zo = 70.7Ω

50Ω 50Ω λ/4


Figure 1-1 Two Way Wilkinson Hybrid (Used as a Combiner)

If one of the amplifiers should fail, the nature of this circuit makes that amplifiers output
appear as a virtual gr ound, s ee Fi gure 1 -2. Th is o ccurs if the actual amp lifier outpu t i s
shorted, open, or somewhere between.

This happens because the vo ltage that ge ts fed back to the b ad amplifier arrives by two
paths. On e is th rough th e 1 00Ω res istor and arri ves i n phas e w ith t he go od amplifier’s
output vo ltage. The oth er path is through the two 1/4 wavelen gth lines . S ince each 1/4
wavelength line gives the signal a 90 degree phase shift, it arrives at the output of the bad
amplifier 180 degrees out of phase with the signal that comes through the 100Ω resistor.

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11/04/02 The Wilkinson Hybrid and its Derivations

Since the voltages are 180 degrees out of phase and equal in amplitude, they cancel leaving
zero volts. Subsequently, the current flowing passed that point sees zero volts, and therefore
that point (the bad amplifier output) becomes a virtual ground.

50Ω 100Ω λ/4

Amp Zo = 70.7Ω
50Ω 50Ω
RBal = 100Ω Zo = 50Ω
RL = 50Ω
Amp Zo = 70.7Ω
Virtual Ground

Figure 1-2 Two Way Wilkinson Hybrid With One Defective Amplifier

Since the bad amplifier end of its 70.7Ω line is at virtual ground (that end appears shorted)
the other end, at the junction of the 50 and 70.7Ω lines, appears open. The 70.7Ω line from
the good amplifier now sees a 50Ω load from the 50Ω output line. The inverting properties
of the 70.7Ω line transforms the 50Ω load impedance at that junction to a 100Ω impedance
at the end connected to the good amplifier. The good amplifier now sees a 100Ω impedance
from the balancing resistor in parallel with a 100Ω impedance from its 70.7Ω line, therefore
it sees a 50Ω (perfect) load. Under these conditions, half of the power of the good amplifier
is dissipated in the balancing resistor and the other half is fed to the 50Ω load through its
70.7Ω impedance matching line.

For the two way Wilkinson combiner operating with one bad amplifier which still produces
some output, the combiner output power can be calculated by the formula given below. For
two or more combined amplifiers, use the formulas presented in Step 6, on page 1-4.

P out = -------------------- + P A × P B

Where: Pout = Combined output power of both amplifiers.

PA = output power of amplifier A
PB = output power of amplifier B

If the bad amplifier produces 17.16% of its normal output power, the combined output of
the good and bad amplifier equals the output of the good amplifier.

At this time it is worth while to observe that although the 70.7Ω line at the bad amplifier’s
output has a current flowing into it (from the 100Ω balancing load). The zero volt voltage
level at this point means this line is accepting no power (P = E * I). At the other end of this
line (the open end) there is voltage, but no current flows into the line at this end, thus no
power is transported at this end of the line.

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The Wilkinson Hybrid and its Derivations 11/04/02

1.2 The N Way Wilkinson Combiner

The Wilkinson Combiner can combine any number of amplifiers, as long as the co rrect
impedance of transmission line is available for the required 1/4 wavelength transmission
line sections.

In Figure 1-3, a four way Wilkinson combiner is being designed, the following steps are
1 The load esistor
r will
LR probably be a transmission line with an impedance of 50Ω.
2 The load impedance (Zout) of each 1/4 wavelength matching section is found by the

Zout = N × R L = 4 × 50 = 200Ω

Where: N = the number of amplifiers to be combined

3 The am plifier’s o utput imp edance (source im pedance f or each 1/4 wavelength
matching section) is 50Ω.
4 The r equired 1 /4 wav elength tr ansmission lin e impedance ( Z0) is fo und by t he

Z0 = ZS × ZL = 50 × 200 = 100Ω

Where: Z0 = impedance of λ/4 line

ZS = source impedance of λ/4 line
ZL = load impedance of λ/4 line.
5 The value of each balancing resistor is the same as the amplifier load impedance, and
should have a power rating which equals the power output of one amplifier.
6 When one or more of the combined amplifiers has failed, the combined power output
(Pout) of this configuration is found by the following two formulas:

( e1 + e2 + ---- + en ) 2
Pout = -----------------------------------------------------
n × RL

Where: e1, e2, and etc. = output voltage of each amplifier

n = number of amplifiers
Output of one or more amplifier is different from the others.
If the bad amplifier(s) have zero output, the formula below can be used.

Good 2
Pout = Pt ×  --------------
 Total

Where: Pt = total combined output power, all amplifiers operating properly.

Good = number of good amplifiers
Total = total number of amplifiers.

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11/04/02 The Wilkinson Hybrid and its Derivations

Zs = 50Ω λ/4 Zout = 200Ω

Amp Zo = 100Ω

Zs = 50Ω λ/4
Zout = 200Ω
Amp Zo = 100Ω
ZL = 50Ω

RBal = 50Ω Each Zo = 50Ω

Zs = 50Ω Zout = 200Ω

Amp Zo = 100Ω

Zs = 50Ω Zout = 200Ω
Amp Zo = 100Ω


Figure 1-3 Four Way Wilkinson Combiner, Showing Normal Operation

Zs = 50Ω Z = 66.7Ω λ/4 Zout = 150Ω

Amp Zo = 100Ω

Z = 200Ω
Zs = 50Ω λ/4
Zout = 150Ω
Amp Zo = 100Ω

ZL = 50Ω

RBal = 50Ω Each Zo = 50Ω

Zs = 50Ω Zout = 150Ω Note: To understand the 200Ω load

provided to each operating amplifier
Amp Zo = 100Ω by the balancing resistor network,
assume that each amplifier has a 100V
λ/4 output and supplies 0.5A to each resistor.
The current through the grounded resistor
is 1.5A, which causes it to develops 75V.
Amp Zo = 100Ω The 0.5A current through the other resistors
causes them to develop 25V each, for a
Virtual Ground λ/4 total of 100 V to each amplifier.

Figure 1-4 Four Way Wilkinson Combiner, Showing Operation With One Defective Amplifier

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The Wilkinson Hybrid and its Derivations 11/04/02

1.3 The Rat Race Combiner

This variation of the Wilkinson combiner is more popular when combining, high power
amplifiers because it can use unbalanced high power test loads for balancing resistors. This
resistor is called the reject load in the Rat Race combiner, but it does the same job as the
balancing resistor. This represents a large savings if a balancing resistor of 1000 watt or
greater rating is required.

In Figure 1-5, the outputs of two amplifiers are to be combined. They are connected to the
output load (R L) by two quarter wavelength, 70.7Ω lines. This part of the circuit forms a
conventional Wilkinson combiner. The output load (RL) is 50Ω, and each amplifier sees a
50Ω output load. The outputs of both amplifier outputs have the same voltage and are in
phase. The output load receives a voltage which is 1.414 times greater than the output of
either amplifier, therefore the comb ined output power is twice the power output level of
either amplifier.

Each amplifier is connected to the 5 0Ω reject load by 7 0.7Ω transmission lines, but the
length of these two lines are not the same. One has a length of 3/4 wavelength (270 elec-
trical degrees) and the other has a leng th of 1/4 wavelength (90 electrical d egrees). The
voltages that arrives at the reject load from each amplifier has the same amplitude, but due
to the differences of connecting line lengths, they are 180 degrees out of phase when they
reach the reject load. These two voltages cancel setting the reject load total voltage at zero
volts. The reject load is therefore at virtual ground during normal operation and it receives
no power from either amplifier. The other end of the 70.7Ω lines appear as open circuits to
the amplifiers, making the entire reject circuit (the reject load and its two lines) invisible to
the two amplifiers.

50Ω λ/4
Amp Zo = 70.7Ω

Open RL = 50Ω
Zo = 70.7

Zo = 70.7

3λ/4 λ/4

Zo = 70.7Ω Amp
Load 50Ω λ/4 50Ω
Virtual Ground

Figure 1-5 Rat Race Combiner, Showing Normal Operation

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11/04/02 The Wilkinson Hybrid and its Derivations

If on e amplifier fails, p roducing zero outp ut, the circuit places that amp lifier ou tput at
virtual ground, see Figure 1-6. This represents a shorted termination for its two output lines,
and they appear as open circuits to the reject and output loads, therefore, the other two lines
see 50 Ω loads. These lines invert the load impedance to 100Ω, which they present to the
good amplifier. The two 100Ω impedances presented to the good amplifier give it a proper
(50Ω) load, and its output power is split evenly between the reject and output loads.

It is easy to understand how a 3/4 wavelength line inverts impedance if it is thought of as a

1/2 wavelength line in connected in series with a 1/4 wavelength line. The 1/2 wavelength
line presents a repeated load impedance to the 1/4 wavelength line, and the 1/4 wavelength
line inverts it.

When operating with one failed amp lifier, the ou tput power can be calculated using the
formulas given in step 6 of the N way Wilkinson combiner design procedure given above.

For the Rat Race combiner with one bad amplifier, the combiner output power can be calcu-
lated by the formula:

Pa + Pb
Pout = ------------------- + Pa + Pb

50Ω 100Ω λ/4 50Ω

Amp Zo = 70.7Ω

100Ω Open RL = 50Ω

Zo = 70.7

Zo = 70.7

3λ/4 λ/4

Zo = 70.7Ω Amp
Load 50Ω λ/4
Virtual Ground

Figure 1-6 Rat Race Combiner, Showing Operation With One Defective Amplifier

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The Wilkinson Hybrid and its Derivations 11/04/02

Figure 1 -7 shows the Rat R ace co mbiner o f Figu re 1 -5 constructed f rom equ ivalent
inductor/capacitor artificial transmission lines. This is useful at frequencies below 30 MHz,
where the line length would be inconveniently long for 1/4 wavelength. Notice that 1/4
wavelength of 70.7Ω line is created with one series inductor of 70.7Ωs reactance connected
to ground at each end through two capacitors of 70.7Ω reactances. In the same figure, 3/4
wavelength of 70.7Ω line is formed be one 70.7Ω series capacitor connected to ground at
each end through a 70.7Ω inductor. Due to the narrow bandwidth of these artificial lines,
they are not practical for use at frequencies above 30 MHz, but this circuit is valuable for
analysis, an d it has b een u sed to combine h igh p ower A.M. b roadcast b and tr ansmitter
power amplifiers.

L5 C1 C2 RL = 50Ω

3λ/4 C7 L2
All XLs and XCs = 70.7Ω

C6 L3 C5
Reject λ/4 50Ω
Load = 50Ω

Figure 1-7 Rat Race Combiner Constructed of Artificial Transmission Lines

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Figure 1-8 shows the circuit of Figure 1-7 with the grounded, left hand corner components
combined. The parallel combination of 70.7Ω inductors and capacitors at each corner are
combined and are therefore eliminated since their reactances cancel producing an infinite
resistance t o ground at t hat point. Th e right hand t wo 35.35Ω capacitive reactances are
created by combining the two 70.7Ω capacitors that are connected to ground at those points
in. This is the actual combiner circuit that is used in one pair of combined, high power AM


XC23 = 35.35Ω
XL1 = 70.7Ω RL = 50Ω

3λ/4 C7 λ/4
L2 XL2 = 70.7Ω
XC7 = 70.7Ω

L3 50Ω

XL3 = 70.7Ω
Reject C45
Load = 50Ω λ/4 XC45 = 35.35Ω

Figure 1-8 Rat Race Combiner With Corner Components Combined

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The Wilkinson Hybrid and its Derivations 11/04/02

1.4 The Gysel Combiner.

The Gysel combiner, shown in Figure 1-9, is still another modification of the Wilkinson
combiner. The Rat Race combiner is limited to just two amplifiers, but the Gysel combiner
can combine any number of amplifiers, being limited only by the availability of the correct
impedance transmission line used to connect each amplifier to the outp ut load (R L). This
limitation is minimized by the use of microstrip transmission line technique. Microstrip
transmission lines are covered in another paper (Development of Microstrip Transmission
Lines, by Doc Daugherty).

The output side of this circuit (the left side of Figure 1-9, within dotted box) including the
amplifiers) functions like a conventional Wilkinson combiner, it is the right side that is of
interest here. At the right side, all of the 1/4 wavelength, 50Ω transmission lines are joined
together. Since each line feeds the same voltage to this junction, it appears as a virtual open
during no rmal operation o f t his co mbiner. 1 /4 w avelength away from t his vi rtual op en
circuit, the 50Ω transmission lines present a short circuit to reject loads (R1 through R4),
placing them at virtual ground. The 1/4 wavelength, 50Ω lines that connect each reject load
to its amplifier appear as an open circuit to the amplifier. This makes the entire reject circuit
(reject lo ads R1 thr ough R 4 and their eight tran smission lines ) invis ible to the two

λ/4 λ/4 λ/4
Zo 1 Zo = 50Ω Zo = 50Ω

Amp R1 = 50Ω

Zo 2 Zo = 50Ω Zo = 50Ω
λ/4 λ/4
ZL R2 = 50Ω Open
Amp Junction

λ/4 λ/4 λ/4

Zo 3 Zo = 50Ω Zo = 50Ω

Amp R3 = 50Ω

Zo 4 Zo = 50Ω Zo = 50Ω
λ/4 λ/4 R4 = 50Ω

Output Combiner

Figure 1-9 Gysel Combiner, Normal operation

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11/04/02 The Wilkinson Hybrid and its Derivations

If an amplifier fails , it s ou tput becom es a virtu al g round, as wi th the other com biners
studied. The impedance inverting properties of its two 1/4 wavelength output lines present
open cir cuits t o t he o utput load an d its reject lo ad. Th e im proper (higher) im pedance
presented to each good amplifier by the output circuit is brought back down to 50Ωs by the
reject loads and their network of 1/4 wavelength, 50Ω interconnecting transmission lines.

When operating with o ne o r m ore f ailed amplifiers, th e output power can be calcu lated

using th e formulas g iven in step 6 o f th e N way Wilkinson co mbiner d esign p rocedure

given above.

These values are for the three operating amplifiers. For each amplifier, Zs = 50Ω.

Z = 150Ω Z = 66.7Ω Z = 200Ω Z = 12.5Ω Z = 16.7Ω Z = 150Ω

λ/4 λ/4 λ/4
Zo 1 = 100Ω Zo = 50Ω Zo = 50Ω

R1 = 50Ω
Zo 2 = 100Ω Zo = 50Ω Zo = 50Ω
λ/4 λ/4
ZL= 50Ω R2 = 50Ω
λ/4 λ/4 λ/4
Zo 3 = 100Ω Zo = 50Ω Zo = 50Ω

R3 = 50Ω
Z = 50Ω
Open Amp

Open λ/4

Zo 4 = 100Ω Zo = 50Ω Zo = 50Ω

λ/4 λ/4 R4 = 50Ω

Virtual Ground

Figure 1-10 Gysel Combiner, Showing Operation With One Defective Amplifier

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