The Twin-Lead "Twin-Lamp," by W4HVV

At a recent swapmeet someone asked me how the venerable dual light-bulb "twin-lead" SWR indicator worked. Although I was familiar with the device, I hadn't looked into its theory of operation, and so I said that it was probably similar to the Monimatch (described here) because, even though it used a length of twin-lead as its sensing element, that length was very short compared to an HF wavelength and thus it could be analyzed from a "lumped-element" perspective using capacitive and inductive coupling, rather than as a transmission line.

But the question made me curious as to what the analysis would be, and I decided to delve deeper...

The 'Twin-Lead "Twin-Lamp"' SWR indicator was a very simple device designed for use with twin-lead (or open-wire) transmission lines, and it used two inexpensive flashlight bulbs as Forward and Reflected Power indicators. To my knowledge, it was first mentioned in an article by Charles Wright, W4HVV, in the October, 1947 issue of

*QST*(The "Twin-Lamp" -- you can find a copy of the article here). It then appeared in later editions of the ARRL's "The Radio Amateur's Handbook (up through 1961), as well as in editions of the "Radio Handbook" published by Editors and Engineers (such as the 13th edition, published in 1951, which I have).

The W4HVV's "Twin-Lamp" SWR Indicator is pictured above. Below is a sketch of a similar design, for the 13th Edition of the Radio Handbook, published by Editors and Engineers:

In other words, the SWR indicator consists of a short length of twin-lead with two lamps attached to it. The lamps can be attached at either end, or in the center.

Per W4HVV, the configuration shown above as (A) has greater sensitivity than configuration (B), no doubt due to the direct (rather than capacitive) connection of the top of the detection-loop to the transmission line.

W4HVV does an excellent job explaining the detector's operation, and I've included it below (from the original QST article, via the RF Cafe website). First, the figures he references:

(Click on image to enlarge)

Figure 1

And here is his explanation (I've added some formatting changes for clarity):

Referring to Fig. 1-A, a current, I

_{L}, in the line would induce a current, I_{1}, in a loop near the line, as shown. If the reactance of the loop is small compared to the resistance of the bulbs A and B, the current I_{1}will lag I_{L}by 90°. This current will, of course, be the same through lamps A and B, and will cause them to burn with equal brightness if they are identical.
Now from Fig. 1-B, we see that bulbs A and B are across the line and in series with a small capacity C. This capacity is, of course, the distributed capacity between the loop and the line. If the reactance of this capacity is large compared to that of A and B the current I

_{2}will flow and will lead the voltage across the line by 90°. If A and B are identical the current will divide equally between them.
Since I

_{1}lags I_{L}. by 90° and I_{2}leads E_{L}by 90°, it is apparent that if I_{L}and E_{L}are in phase with each other, I_{1}and I_{2}will be exactly out of phase.
Fig. 1-C is a combination of the circuits explained above. Condenser C is the capacity between the wires of the loop and the line. Currents I

_{1}and I_{2}are shown as they appear in Figs. 1-A and 1-B. It is now evident that bulb A will light from the sum of I_{1}and I_{2}and bulb B will light from the difference between these two currents. This is the case for a wave traveling toward the right. In the case of a wave traveling toward the left, the currents will add in bulb B and tend to cancel in bulb A. Thus the device is a form of "directional coupler." When the line is terminated on the right-hand side (marked "load" in Fig. 1-C) by a resistance equal to the characteristic impedance of the line, there is no reflected wave and only bulb A will light. If the load is something different, there will be some reflected energy, and lamp B will burn along with A, the relative brilliance depending upon the relative magnitudes of the transmitted and reflected energy. These facts are what make the device so useful as a standing-wave indicator.
In the foregoing discussion, three conditions were set up:

- bulbs A and B should be identical;
- the reactance of the loop should be small compared to the impedance of A and B; and
- the reactance of the coupling capacity should be high compared to the bulb impedance.

__A Closer Look...__

Let's dive a bit deeper and see if we can't derive some equations to describe the operation of the "Twin-Lamp".

I'm going to use the principle of Superposition (a fundamental principle in Linear Network Theory and an essential tool for circuit analysis). I'll first look at how the

__voltage across the transmission line__creates currents in the two lamps of the detector (independent of the current through the transmission line). I'll then look at how the

__current through the transmission line__(independent of the voltage across the line) creates its own currents in the two lamps. And then I'll combine these two currents, calculated independently, to get the final aggregate lamp currents.

First, let's consider a twin-lead (or open-wire) transmission line driven by a source at one end and terminated by a load (Z

_{load}) at the other end:

If Z

_{load}differs from the characteristic impedance of the transmission line (Z

_{o}), then there are reflections along the transmission line and, if we were to measure current and voltage at an arbitrary point along the transmission line, we would see an impedance, Z

_{load}' (i.e. Z

_{load}

*prime*), where the value of Z

_{load}' changes as we move along the transmission line, and which only equals Z

_{load}at distances equal to integer half-wavelengths as we move away from the load back towards the generator.

(Click on images to enlarge)

So, if we were to measure V and I at the (arbitrary) point shown above, it would appear to us that we had a load of impedance Z

_{load}' attached at that point, so that the transmission-line circuit can be modeled now as a much shorter line with a new load, Z

_{load}':

where: Z

_{load}' = V/I, measured at that point.

What happens if we put our "Twin-Lamp" SWR indicator at that point, so that it measures the same V and I that creates Z

_{load}' ? (Remember, the length of the Twin-Lamp detector should be significantly shorter than the wavelength of the signal being measured to ensure that the I and V it measures are essentially the same as those at Z

_{load}' ).

(Click on image to enlarge)

First, let's look at the currents through the lamps due to the

*voltage across the transmission line*(I

_{lamp-C}). We can consider the bulbs to be capacitively coupled to the transmission line and, if the bulbs have identical impedances, then the currents through them will be equal and in the same direction:

(Click on image to enlarge)

The circuit is a simple voltage divider, and thus the current I

_{c}is equal to the voltage across the line at that point divided by the sum of the series-impedances across that point:

I

_{c}= V/(1/jωC + (Rlamp || Rlamp)+ 1/jωC)
I

_{c}= V/(Rlamp/2 + 2/jωC)if (2/jωC) >> (Rlamp/2) -- per W4HVV's third condition, above (that is, if the capacitive reactance is much greater than the lamp resistance), then the equation reduces to:

I

_{c}= V*jωC/2Assuming the impedances of the two lamps are identical, then I

_{c}splits equally through each lamp branch:

I

_{lamp-C}= I_{c}/2 = V*jωC/4Now let's look at our second lamp-current factor: lamp current due to transmission-line current (I

_{lamp-L}). The transmission-line current inductively couples to the detector loop:

(Click on image to enlarge)

If the reactance of the mutual coupling is very small compared to the bulb resistances (per W4HVV's second condition, above), then this coupling can be modeled as two voltage sources (refer to this post as to why):

(Click on image to enlarge)

The lamp current due to inductive coupling, I

_{lamp-L}is simply the current in the detector's loop, and it can be derived as follows:

I

_{lamp-L}= V_{induced}/(R_{lamp }+ R_{lamp)}
therefore,

I

_{lamp-L}= 2*jωM*I/(2*Rlamp)
substituting V/Z

_{load}' for I and reducing,
I

_{lamp-L}= jωM*V/(Rlamp*Z_{load}')So, we've calculated the currents due to capacitive coupling and due to inductive coupling. Now let's combine them and calculate the voltage across each lamp:

(Click on image to enlarge)

Notice that the two current-components through lamp-F are in the same direction. Therefore they add, and the voltage across this lamp can be calculated as:

V

_{lamp-F}= (I_{lamp-C}+ I_{lamp-L})*R_{lamp}
But the current-components through lamp-R are in opposite directions and therefore subtract. The voltage across this lamp can be calculated as:

V

_{lamp-R}= (I_{lamp-C}- I_{lamp-L})*R_{lamp}_{o}, then the SWR should be 1:1 and lamp-R should be extinguished -- the voltage across it should be zero. Therefore, substituting Z

_{o}for Z

_{load}' and setting V

_{lamp-R}to 0 volts, our last equation becomes:

0 = (I

_{lamp-C}- I_{lamp-L})*R_{lamp}
0 = (V*jωC/4 - jωM*V/(Rlamp*Z

_{o}))*R_{lamp}Which reduces to:

0 = C/4 - M/(R

_{lamp}*Z_{o})
This last equation gives us the relationship we need to design the appropriate values of capacitive and inductive coupling between the "Twin-Lamp" detector and the transmission line:

**4*M/C = R**

_{lamp}***Z**

_{o }Note the similarity between this equation and the equation derived for the monimatch:

M/C = R1*Z

_{o}__Other notes:__

The analysis above (and W4HVV's conditions) assume that the resistance of the two bulbs is identical. But a bulb's resistance should

*increase*as its filament heats up, so there will be a difference in the resistances of an illuminated "Forward" lamp compared to a dark "Reflected" lamp. This difference shouldn't affect the capacitive coupling currents (as long as the capacitive reactance is significantly greater than the "hot-filament" resistance), but it will affect the current due to inductive coupling. In this case (of unequal lamp resistances), I

_{lamp-L}becomes:

I

_{lamp-L}= 2*jωM*V/((R_{lamp-F}+ R_{lamp-R})*Z_{load}')and thus the final equation changes to:

**8*M/C = (R**

_{lamp-F}+ R_{lamp-R})*Z_{o }How will this difference affect the actual SWR reading? I don't know.

As for the other conditions mentioned by W4HVV, if this device's length is kept short, then the overall capacitive coupling should be fairly small, and W4HVV's third condition of capacitive reactance being significantly larger than lamp resistance should be met.

As for W4HVV's second condition, that loop-reactance should be kept small compared to the reactance of the bulbs, I'm not sure how well this condition is met in this design, but as long as the "Reflected" bulb is dark when the line is terminated with a resistance equal to the line's characteristic impedance, Z

_{o}, I wouldn't worry too much -- after all, this device is not meant to be a laboratory-grade instrument!

And when verifying the operation of this type of SWR Indicator by terminating the transmission line with a resistive (non-inductive) load whose value equals the transmission line's characteristic impedance, Z

_{o}, (to ensure that the "Reflected" bulb is dark under "match" conditions), note that the actual Z

_{o }of twin-lead or ladder-line might differ from its assumed value. For example, 450-ohm ladder-line might be closer to 400 ohms.

But, as W4HVV points out, his "Reflected" bulb typically did not begin to light up until SWR was at least 1.5:1, which represents a significantly larger difference in impedances than 400 ohms compared to 450 ohms.

OK, that's it for this analysis!

__Some Twin-Lead SWR Indicator articles:__

The "Twin-Lamp," Wright, W4HVV,

*QST*, Oct., 1947

"The Eyes Have It," Paddon, VE3QV,

*QST*, Oct., 1948

"The Coax Twin-Lamp," Keay, W0SJK, QST, Nov., 1948

"An Improved Twin-Lamp", Fisher, VE3ALQ,

*QST*, Oct., 1949

"Measuring Center Impedance of Antennas with the "Twin-Lamp," Gross, W2OXR,

*QST*, May, 1950

"The Balanced Twin-Lamp," Wood, K2BUZ,

*QST*, Nov., 1956

"A Reflectometer for Twin-Lead," Brown, W6HPH,

*QST*, Oct., 1980

__Links to my Directional Coupler blog posts:__

Notes on the Bruene Coupler, Part 2

Notes on the Bruene Coupler, Part 1

Notes on HF Directional Couplers

Building an HF Directional Coupler

Notes on the Bird Wattmeter

Notes on the Monimatch

__And some related links from my Auto-Tuner posts:__

Part 5: Directional Coupler Design

Part 6: Notes on Match Detection

Part 8: The Build, Phase 2 (Integration of Match Detection)

__And other links:__

Modeling RF transformers

__Final Caveats:__

As always, I might have made a mistake in my equations, assumptions, or interpretations. If you see anything you believe to be in error, or if anything is confusing, please feel free to contact me.

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