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Asymmetric Blumlein Line for Broadband Pulse



Military University of Technology
ul. Gen. Witolda Urbanowicza 2, Warszawa, 00-908, Poland
Warsaw University of Technology
ul. Koszykowa 75, Warszawa, 00-662, Poland

Abstract. This paper describes a new idea of an asymmetric Blumlein

line. Unlike the classical one, this has the advantage of providing high
frequency broadband pulses which can be easily matched to antennas for
EMP generation. The paper discuss also the design and the simulation
of a high voltage pulse generator, based on this idea, which can produce
pulses of maximal power of 2 GW and amplitude of 300 kV. The main
energy lobe is located around 50 MHz.

Keywords: Blumlein line, Pulse generation, Broadband radiation, ANSYS-


1 Introduction
Over recent decades, pulsed power generation experienced very fast develop-
ment due to its various applications in different fields. Many technologies were
developed and adapted to fulfil the requirements imposed by this vast field of
applications which still continues to grow. As examples of pulse generators tech-
nologies, we can mention the most classical Marx generator and its improved
versions by changing the structure [1] or using different types of switches in-
stead of spark gaps. Several designs with semiconductor switches like IGBTs or
MOSFETs [2–4], thyristors[5], or avalanche transistors [6, 7] have been proposed.
In addition to Marx derived generators other solutions were proposed, e.g. Lin-
ear Transformer Driver (LTD) [8, 9], explosively driven pulsed power, magnetic
flux compression [10], etc.
One of the most important techniques used for generating fast rectangular
pulses was invented by A.D. Blumlein during the World War II. It is called

Vin T1, Z1 T2, Z2

Fig. 1. A classical Blumlein line

2 Achour Y. and Starzyński J.

Fig. 2. Different operating phases of the Blumlein line

Blumlein line (BL) [11]. BL (shown in Figure 1) consists of two identical trans-
mission lines having characteristic impedance Z which are connected to the two
terminals of the load equal 2Z. The generator, charged to voltage Vin stores
electric energy in the two lines and, when switched by the switch S (see Fig. 1),
delivers it at a constant rate to the load, creating a nice square pulse.
The operating principle of this generator is explained in Figure 2. The idea
is to fully charge both lines up to a certain voltage, then shorten one ending
with a switch (a spark gap is most often used). This launches a travelling wave
into the left line. When this wave reaches the load it splits into transmitted
component and a reflected wave and the voltage across the load is developed.
For the best operation, the load impedance should be the double of the line’s
one. That allows cancellation of the reflected waves coming from the two lines
after the second reflection. This means that the load is under constant voltage
(equal to the charging one) for the period equals two times the delay of a single
line [1].
Blumlein lines were firstly used for line and frame synchronization in televi-
sion, modulation of continuous waves and also in radar technology [11]. Then,
its simple and robust structure made it a potential candidate for many appli-
cations especially in bioengineering [12, 13]. The structure was also a subject of
many studies and modifications by using, for instance, non-linear dielectrics[14],
unbalanced impedances [15] or modular structure[16].
In this paper, we will try to look at the Blumlein line from yet another
perspective. Our main focus is the harmonic content of the output signal. We
start with analysis, how the produced pulses can be changed by different lengths
of the BL segments.
Asymmetric Blumlein line 3

2 Asymmetric Blumlein line

In classical Blumlein generators two conditions must hold: the first is that both
lines must be identical (i.e. must have the same delay and same characteristic
impedance). The second condition is that the load impedance should be the sum
of both lines impedances. Only in this case the generator delivers rectangular
Comparing to single edge pulses (generated by Marx generators for example),
rectangular ones have better performance and contain higher harmonics. That
gave so many usages of the Blumlein’s invention. However, recently, the use of
bipolar pulses has proven to be more efficient for many applications [13] because
their DC and low frequency components are attenuated. This makes their power
spectrum shifted to even higher frequencies, what is very adequate to match
generators with antennas for electromagnetic pulses (EMP) generation [17].
For these reasons, we propose Blumlein line designed to generate bipolar,
not rectangular pulses. This can be achieved by making the delay of the right
line being shorter than the delay of the left one. In this way, we shall get more
reflections on the shorted line and the right voltage becomes lower because it is
divided by two each time it hits the load. So, when the second reflection of the
long line reaches the load, the voltage on the second side is lower, what means
that they cannot cancel each other. That creates a negative pulse just after the
end if the positive one. In that way, we get a bipolar pulse. It’s clear that the
negative pulse will not be as high as the positive one, however, it’s appearance
will substantially reduce the DC component of the generated pulses.
The central frequency of the generated pulses can be estimated using the
equation (1).
fc ≈ , (1)
4 · (T1 + T2 )
where T1 and T2 are delays of the left (long) and the right (shorter) lines respec-
tively. The short line delay can be expressed as a fraction of the long line delay
T2 = ρ · T1 , where ρ – shortening factor – is given in per cent (for ρ = 100%
the two lines are identical). This assumption allows us to treat T1 as the main
parameter for setting the central frequency, which can be expressed as

fc ≈ . (2)
4 · T1 · (1 + ρ)

T2 (or ρ) influences the the frequency bandwidth as well.

In order to check this idea and the influence of ρ on the pulse spectrum,
a simplified simulation was developed using MATLAB SIMULINK. The im-
plemented model is shown in Figure 3. It uses lossless lines model and ideal
switch. The objective was to get possibly broadband pulses with spectrum cen-
tered around 50MHz. The left line had a fixed delay of 4 ns, the right one was
tuned (ρ = 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, 100%). The obtained results are presented
in Figure 4 and Figure 5.
4 Achour Y. and Starzyński J.

Fig. 3. MATLAB SIMULINK model of Blumlein line based generator.

In Figure 4, the output voltage is displayed for two cases: the first (shown in
blue color) when the line is symmetric (ρ = 100%), the second (red color) when
the shortening factor is 30% i.e. T2 = 1.2 ns. The fast reflections in the short
line can clearly be noticed.


Voltage (kV)





0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
time (ns)

Fig. 4. Output pulse waveforms for ρ = 100% and 30%

In Figure 5, the energy spectral density of different pulses is plotted. It can be

observed that when the two lines are identical, most of the energy is located at
low frequencies and spectral density decreases when the frequency rises. However,
introducing asymmetry to the line, we notice the formation of a lobe around the
central frequency fc given by relation (2). Moreover, the lower shortening factor
(ρ) we take, the narrower band we obtain.

3 Simulated design
On the base of the previous section, a broadband pulse generator using an asym-
metric coaxial Blumlein line was designed (see Figure 6). This 3D model was
developed and solved in a transient mode using ANSYS-HFSS software.
Asymmetric Blumlein line 5


Energy spectral density (J/Hz)

10-5 30%


0 25 50 75 100 125 150
Frequency (MHz)

Fig. 5. Energy Spectral density of output pulses for different values of ρ

Fig. 6. ANSYS-HFSS 3D model of designed asymmetric Blumlein line generator

The designed generator consists of two main parts, the first is the Blumlein
line, and the second is a pulse compression line. The BL is assembled from two
coaxial lines which share one conductor (shown in green color in Fig. 6). The
pulse compression line is used to match the low impedance of the Blumlein line
to the load. Additionally it amplifies the output voltage due to the different
input and output impedances (a transformer effect).
The designed Blumlein line has an output impedance of 24Ω. This low value
is caused mainly by the used dielectric: distilled water. This choice was made due
to several reasons: the first one is that water has very high dielectric constant
(around 80 at room temperature), this means that the propagation velocity in
such medium is 11% of light celerity in the vacuum. In this way, we reduce
the dimensions of the designed generator. The second reason is the dielectric
strength of distilled water (which can reach 65–70 MV/m). It allows us to reach
6 Achour Y. and Starzyński J.

very high charging voltages and higher power density. For more details about
distilled water properties in pulsed power field, see [18].
The pulse compression line consists of a conical inner and cylindrical outer
conductors separated with a dielectric material. The input and the output diam-
eters are calculated to match the Blumlein line impedance 24 Ω and the load one
50 Ω respectively. PTFE (teflon) was used as the dielectric in this part to seal
the water. It was chosen also due to its high dielectric strength. PTFE dielectric
constant is equal 2.1 what makes the transition between the two mediums (wa-
ter and PTFE) quite difficult to design because of the reflection phenomenon
caused by their different dielectric constants. In our design, this transition was
optimized numerically to keep the impedance of the line constant.

Output voltage
300 Charging voltage

Voltage (kV)



-20 0 20 40 60 80 100 120
Time (ns)

Fig. 7. Output and charging voltage waveforms in ANSYS-HFSS model

Energy spectral density (J/Hz)



0 20 40 60 80 100
Frequency (MHz)

Fig. 8. Energy Spectral density of output pulses for ρ = 30% in ANSYS-HFSS model

The obtained results are presented in Figures 7 and 8. The first one shows
the charging voltage and the output waveform (in red and blue respectively) as
a time function. The oscillations created by the line asymmetry is clear. The
Asymmetric Blumlein line 7

voltage gain created by the transformer effect in the compression line can also
be noticed. The characteristics of the generated pulses is summarized in Table 3.

Table 1. The most important pulse parameters

Property Value
Charging voltage 250 kV
Pulse amplitude 325 kV
Pulse energy 15 J
Maximal power 2.1 GW
Mean power 300 MW

Figure 8 shows the energy spectral density of the generated pulse. 50% of the
energy is carried by harmonics from 30 MHz to 60 Mz and 90% of it is located
between 10 MHz and 100 MHz. This confirms that a big part of the energy is
carried by high-frequency harmonics.
Comparing results from Figure 8 to those discussed previously in Figure 5,
(curve for ρ=30%), we can notice in some attenuation burden in the ANSYS
model, though the two simulations uses the same parameters in terms of charging
voltage and energy. The difference in results can be explained by the fact that the
ANSYS simulation uses more realistic closing switch which needs 2 ns to fully
close, while an ideal switch was used in the SIMULINK model. It can be noticed
from the pulse shape also—the sharp steps are replaced with smooth curve.
The second cause of differences is the dielectric losses caused by the material’s
conductivity in the ANSYS model.

4 Conclusion

In this paper, a new idea of an asymmetric Blumlein line was presented. This
asymmetry was introduced in order to move the pulse energy from low to high
frequencies which allows it to match easily with antennas. Based on this idea, a
high power broadband pulse generator was designed and simulated using a com-
mercial software ANSYS-HFSS. The described system which can generate pulses
with a harmonic content from 30MHz to 60MHz and a maximal pulsed power of
2 Gigawatt. The obtained results are very coherent with some differences caused
by the adopted simplifications.


The ANSYS HFSS software used in this work was provided by the partnership
agreement of ANSYS, Inc., MESco Poland and Warsaw University of Technology.
8 Achour Y. and Starzyński J.


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