WSPR checkout on new workstation

I have been building a new workstation and a simple test of its reliability for logging signals via the IC-7300 sound card is to run WSPR.

So, WSJT-X was configured for WSPR on 40m and run for 24h using the low G5RV inverted V dipole with tuned feeders (designed primarily as an NVIS antenna for local contacts).

Above is a map of the spots involving VK2OMD over the 24h survey. Continue reading WSPR checkout on new workstation

NH7RO 7-foot diameter QRO STL for 40M

NH7RO describes his loop project at Building a 7-foot diameter QRO STL for 40M in my HOA backyard.

The loop appears to be made from 7/8″ copper tube, and is 7′ in diameter. He estimates its efficiency to be 66% and initially reports I’ve got it less than 4 feet above ground yet it tunes flat to 1.1>1 with roughly 10kHz bandwidth.. Curiously, 10kHz is the result calculated by AA5TB’s spreadsheet, though I have written elsewhere it is deeply flawed (Small transmitting loop calculators – a comparison).

Let us assume that these figures are correctly reported, and that the unqualified bandwidth means the half power bandwidth of a matched loop.

We can estimate the efficiency of a Small Transmitting Loop (STL) in free space.

Before getting excited about the results, let us question the validity of the model. There are three important factors that question the validity of the model:

  • bandwidth;
  • size of the loop; and
  • proximity to ground.

Continue reading NH7RO 7-foot diameter QRO STL for 40M

Check / calibrate frequency accuracy of IC-7300

The IC-7300 is a transceiver where all heterodyning oscillators are derived from a single master oscillator.

This type of radio makes for very easy checking and calibration of frequency accuracy.

The video below demonstrates the technique.

The video used a local GPS disciplined source at 50.1MHz. The frequency was chosen to provide the greater resolution in setting the oscillator, though setting it to within 1 part in 50,000,000 or 0.02ppm is better than the stability of the oscillator (specification is 0.5ppm or 5Hz at 10MHz).

Any accurate known reference can be used, it could be WWV or the like, or even a MW broadcast station, though an accurate signal at 10MHz or higher is better.

The technique can be applied to the much older IC-7000, and many transceivers released since then, of various brands. The important thing is that ALL oscillators are derived from a single master oscillator.

 

Surecom SW-102 VSWR meter review

I recently purchased a Surecom SW-102 VSWR meter. It looked a little like a supercharged RedDot copy.

sw102-02

Above the Surecom SW-102 VSWR meter with backlight and photographed under normal interior lighting. The display lacks contrast, and overall is difficult to read due to size of text, fonts used, and lack of contrast. (The pic is taken with a screen protector installed, but the evaluation is based on the bare meter with original protective film removed as it degraded readability.) Continue reading Surecom SW-102 VSWR meter review

Does common mode current flow inside coax?

The term “common mode current” applied to coaxial transmission lines is bandied about with abandon these days in online fora, awareness of its existence has increased if not understanding.

A simplistic analysis is that in TEM mode, ONLY differential current is supported inside a coaxial line, ie that at any point the current on the outer surface of the inner conductor is exactly equal to a current in the opposite direction on the inner surface of the outer conductor.

But, lets look at the wider context of the meaning of common mode current when a uniform coaxial line is connected to an antenna system. Whilst an antenna might have an obvious two terminal connection to the feed line, in the presence of ground, the current in those two terminals are not necessarily equal and opposite. Continue reading Does common mode current flow inside coax?

Exploiting your antenna analyser #26

Find coax cable velocity factor using a very basic analyser

A common task is to measure the velocity factor of a sample of coaxial transmission line using an instrument that lacks facility to backout cable sections or measure OSL calibration (as discussed in other articles in this series). The older models and newer budget models often fall into this category.

The manuals for such instruments often explain how to measure coaxial cable velocity factor, and the method assumes there is zero offset at the measurement terminals (whether they be the built-in terminals or some fixture / adapters). In fact even the connectors are a source of error, especially UHF series connectors.

It is the failure to read exactly Z=0+j0Ω with a S/C applied to the measurement terminals that adversely impacts efforts to measure resonant frequency of a test line section.

The method described here approximately nulls out offsets in the instrument, measurement fixture, and even in the connectors used and for that reason may sometimes be of use with more sophisticated analysers.
Continue reading Exploiting your antenna analyser #26

PD7MAA’s BN43-202 matching transformer for an EFHW – full measurement set

I have written some recent articles about or relevant to PD7MAA’s BN43-202 EFHW matching transformer. At about the same time a discussion started on and through that discussion, one ‘online extra expert’ stated that my analysis was bogus (dictionary meaning: not genuine, faked, a misrepresentation).

This article presents detail that was not included in the earlier articles as it distracts from the issue for most readers. Continue reading PD7MAA’s BN43-202 matching transformer for an EFHW – full measurement set

Thoughts on binocular ferrite core inductors at radio frequencies

Binocular ferrite cores are widely used, but not so widely understood.

Understanding inductors is an important first step to understanding transformers are they are coupled inductors.

The usual use of them is to make a winding of several turns around the central limb. One turn is a pass through both sides of the core around the central limb. Figures given in datasheets for Al or impedance rely upon that meaning of one turn.

A common assumption is that L=Al*n^2.

Note that published Al values are obtained by measurement typically at 10kHz and are not directly applicable at radio frequencies for core materials where the permeability µ is significantly different to µi (most ferrites). Notwithstanding this fact, most inductance calculators assume µ is not frequency dependent.

Let us measure a one turn winding on a practical binocular core for reference

Above is a measurement of R,X of a BN43-202 core with a one turn winding at 10MHz. X is  59.57Ω implying inductance of 0.95µH (assuming a simple two component model which does not capture self resonance effects). Datasheets for this core specify Al as 2200nH for one turn, yet we measure 950nH at 10MHz… proof of problems in simple application of Al.

Of course it is possible to make an inductor by passing a conductor once though one side of the binocular, a half turn if you like, but don’t let that label imply the impedance relative to a one turn winding.

Above is a measurement of a BN43-202 core with a ‘half turn’ winding.

If inductance followed the formula L=Al*n^2 and this was truly a half turn winding, we would expect the inductive reactance X ( 37.16Ω) to be one quarter or 25% of that of the single turn inductor (59.57Ω). Clearly it is not, it is 62%, the notion of a half turn or the formula or both have failed badly in this case.

Well on the back of that failure, lets try 1.5t.

Would we be brave or foolish to predict inductance will be 1.5^2 times that for one turn?

Above is a measurement of a BN43-202 core with a ‘one and a half turn’ winding.

If inductance followed the formula L=Al*n^2 and this was truly a half turn winding, we would expect the inductive reactance X ( 155.2Ω) to be 1.5^2 or 2.25 times that of the single turn inductor (59.57Ω). Clearly it is not, it is 2.60 times, the notion of a half turn or the formula or both have failed badly in this case.

Now let us look at Q, the ratio of X/R. The Q of the half turn inductor is 1.051, the one turn inductor is 1.022, and the one and a half turn inductor is 1.016. The quite small decrease in Q may be entirely due to the lower self resonant frequency as more turns are added and may not indicate a significant increase in core loss because of ‘half turn effects’ as sometimes claimed.

The error in conventional n^2 estimates of odd half turns becomes less significant with higher turns.

Conclusions

The traditional formula L=Al*n^2 does not apply to ferrite binocular cores at radio frequencies for odd half turns, and does not account for variation of permeability with frequency or influence of self resonance.

Understanding inductors is the first step to understanding transformers are they are coupled inductors.

Common failings of EFHW matching transformers

I have written many reviews of published EFHW matching transformers, and in most cases the reviews have reported estimated or measured losses that are appalling and not disclosed by the ‘designers’.

Why is it so?

I am asked, why is it so?

Up front, I do not know the answer definitively, but let me offer some thoughts based on the designer’s own articles and discussions by ‘online experts’.

Apparent reasons include:

  1. lack of understanding of ferrite and powdered iron core material behaviour;
  2. lack of understanding of coupled coils, and mutual inductance;
  3. use of inductor design tools that are inadequate at radio frequencies;
  4. lack of competency in basic linear circuit theory analysis for AC circuits;
  5. failure to make meaningful measurements of the built article;
  6. focus on input VSWR as a single metric indicating goodness;
  7. reliance on QSOs for evidence of performance;
  8. an attitude that antenna system radiation efficiency doesn’t matter, particularly for QRP (if the term antenna system radiation efficiency is even understood as a quantitative metric).

Continue reading Common failings of EFHW matching transformers