ADF4351 / PllLdr checkout

PllLdr is a generic microcontroller to load a PLL chip’s configuration registers using SPI. SPI is used by many PLL and DDS chips, data format and content varies from chip to chip.

This article documents checkout on an ADF4351 PLL chip. The ADF4351 is a wideband INT-N / FRAC-N synthesiser with integrated VCO, output covers 36-4400MHz (continuous).

The test was made on an inexpensive module purchased on eBay for about A$33 posted.

ads4351-pllldr01

Above is the test frame. At the left is a PllLdr prototype running on 5V, then a 4 channel 5V/3.3V  level converter, the ADF4351 module and at the right a power supply board. The level converter is not needed if the PllLdr chip was run on 3.3V, it was used to test a ‘worst case’ scenario.

adf4351-01

Above, a close up of the board.

adf4351-02

As can be seen, the connectors are not designed for the 0.8mm PCB used, and the right hand connector has not been connected to the track. Chinese ‘quality’.

The onboard 25MHz crystal oscillator was used as the reference, but a 10MHz reference from a GPSDO could be used for high accuracy. Continue reading ADF4351 / PllLdr checkout

Toshiba alkaline AA leakage problems

I have used Toshiba alkaline cells in several sizes for many years (decades) and had not encountered one leaked cell… however in the last few months I have found 8 AA cells that have leaked in different devices.

The leakage has always had the same failure.

toshibaaa03Above is a view of the -ve end of the battery, ground through to expose the inner structure.

The failed batteries have leaked corrosive electrolyte, and they have all split around the circumference of the battery in the region indicated by the red arrow above. The split is common half way or more around the cell, the green seal and remnant of the rolled over case is  there, split away from the main case and covered in corrosive electrolyte residual.

This is not a failure of the green seal material, but rather the case fails.

It fails either due to internal corrosion, os weakness of the forming process. It is not clear that this area should be exposed to electrolyte anyway, so the corrosion might result from some other internal failure that releases electrolyte.

Enough reason to remove them from all devices and NEVER use these cells again.

Fan controlled by humidity sensor – pre implementation data gathering

This article documents measurements of temperature and relative humidity (RH) over 10 days prior to implementing the fan solution to provide a baseline for designing the Fan controlled by humidity sensor.

A RC-4HC datalogger was used to collect temperature and RH measurements over 10 days which included a range of late winter weather, some rain, some fine clear days. The logger was located at 1.5m above floor level in the shed in a relatively clear spot in the middle of the area..

Screenshot - 22_08_16 , 15_53_17

Above is a chart of temperature and RH. The daily RH peaks are typically between 08:00 and 09:30, and pretty much coincide with the minimum observed temperature. There is clearly a lag from outside temperature which would tend to be minimum a few hours earlier, and a lower minimum (there were plenty of frosty days in the sample set). Continue reading Fan controlled by humidity sensor – pre implementation data gathering

Time to get some experience with 32bit microcontrollers – some progress

At Time to get some experience with 32bit microcontrollers I wrote that after almost 50 years working with 8bit microcomputers and microcontrollers, I thought it about time to get my hands dirty on some 32bit microcontrollers.

This article reports some work in the STM stream.

I abondoned the ST Discovery board in favour of a low cost basic ST32F103 development board costing about $4 on eBay. The chip is a 32bit microcontroller clocked at 72MHz.

As a learning vehicle, I decided to implement the functionality contained in Arduino thermistor thermometer – a tutorial.

The development environment is Eclipse with the GNU ARM toolchain, a debugger probe, the basic development board, and a 1602 LCD display with I2C backpack and an inexpensive CP2102 USB RS232-TTL interface.

ST32F103-d01

Above is the working trial. The GDB debugger allows On Chip Debugging (OCD).
Continue reading Time to get some experience with 32bit microcontrollers – some progress

Fan controlled by humidity sensor – design technique

This article gives an outline of the process used in designing the Fan controlled by humidity sensor to use my Generic heating / cooling controller design (hcctl).

Arduino thermistor thermometer – a tutorial gave a method for designing a thermometer based on a formula predicting the behaviour of the sensor. This article explains a different approach where that is not possible.

HDS10-02

Above is a characteristic from the manufacturer’s data.

The curves to no lend themselves to simple curve fits, so a cubic spine interpolation will be made based on key points from the curve.

Four our purposes, the mean curve (green) is sufficient for design.

Screenshot - 24_07_16 , 08_16_07

 

Above, the mean curve was digitised to capture the shape of the curve, 17 points were used.
Continue reading Fan controlled by humidity sensor – design technique

Fan controlled by humidity sensor

I have a problem with machine tools getting condensation on them when conditions in the shed read dew point.

A possible solution being explored is to circulate air with a fan, possible inducting outside air, when humidity approaches condensing conditions.

A quick search reveals the HDS10 resistive humidity sensor for a dollar or so on eBay.

Above is the HDS10 humidity sensor.

Most low cost humidity sensors use a humidity dependent capacitive element, the HDS10 is different in being a humidity dependent capacitive element and is therefore simpler to use with microcontrollers with ADC input.

HDS10-02

The above graph is from the datasheet. It is intended primarily for sensing high humidity (dew point, condensing conditions) which suits this application.
Continue reading Fan controlled by humidity sensor

Review of inexpensive Chinese thermostat – STC-1000

This is a review of an inexpensive STC-1000 Chinese bang-bang  thermostat that was purchased on eBay for around A$12 complete with thermistor sensor and postage.

Above is the front view of the thermostat. There are many thermostats on the market with similar front panels, but they differ in internals and most importantly, performance and quality.

STC-1000-03

Above, the rating label is clear and informational, but it does not give the sensor parameters.  Continue reading Review of inexpensive Chinese thermostat – STC-1000

Can a hand held analyser be used to evaluate Insertion VSWR of a VSWR meter?

Some recent articles here used a two port analyser to evaluate Insertion VSWR of some coax switches, and it raises the question about application of a hand held analyser and Insertion VSWR of a VSWR meter.

(Duffy 2007) listed tests for evaluation of a VSWR meter:

Testing a VSWR meter

The tests here need to be interpreted in the context of whether the device under test (DUT) has only calibrated power scales, or a VSWR Set/Reflected mode of measurement, and whether directional coupler scales are identical for both directions.

  1. Connect a calibrated dummy load of the nominal impedance on the instrument output and measure the VSWR at upper and lower limit frequencies and some in between frequencies. The VSWR should be 1. (Checks nominal calibration impedance);
  2. Repeat Test 1 at a selection of test frequencies and for each test, without changing transmitter power, reverse the DUT and verify that repeat the forward/set and reflected readings swap, but are of the same amplitude (checks the symmetry / balance of the detectors under matched line conditions).
  3. Connect a s/c to the instrument output and measure the VSWR at upper and lower limit frequencies and some in between frequencies. The VSWR should be infinite. (Discloses averaging due to excessive sampler length);
  4. Connect an o/c to the instrument output and measure the VSWR at upper and lower limit frequencies and some in between frequencies. The VSWR should be infinite. (Discloses averaging due to excessive sampler length);
  5. Connect a calibrated wattmeter / dummy load of the nominal impedance on the instrument output and measure calibration accuracy of power / ρ / VSWR scales at a range of power levels in both forward and reflected directions (Checks scale shape and absolute power calibration accuracy).
  6. Repeating Test 1 additionally with a calibrated VSWR meter connected to the input to the DUT, and measure the VSWR caused by the DUT at a range of test frequencies (Checks Insertion VSWR).

It is not unusual for low grade instruments to pass Test 1, but to fail Test 6 (and some others, especially Test 3 and Test 4) towards the higher end of their specified frequency range.

Item 6 in the list was to evaluate the Insertion VSWR. Continue reading Can a hand held analyser be used to evaluate Insertion VSWR of a VSWR meter?

U-BLOX LEA-6T GPS module – for experiments

This article documents a LEA-6T module build for general experiments.

The LEA-6T is an inexpensive GPS module (~$40 at time of purchase, but getting cheaper) that can supply raw pseudo range data.

LEA-6T02

The module above is supplied for use on UAVs of various kinds, and came complete with a plastic radome and cables to suit an APM copter. The module also contains a 3D compass (magnetometer) which is not used here.

LEA-6T03

Above is the internals of the module with a custom cable to pick up just the RS232-TTL signals from the GPS (and supply 5V). The connector is a 8pin Hirose DF13. Continue reading U-BLOX LEA-6T GPS module – for experiments

Coax switches – is shorting unused port necessary for isolation?

At Ratings of coax antenna switches I showed characteristics of a home made switch which has very low InsertionVSWR, but poor isolation.

A couple of correspondents have offered an explanation that the unused port must be shorted to get good isolation.

If that was the case, then we would expect all coax switches that leave the unused port open to have poor isolation.

Let us look at a very good coaxial relay

 

Above is a Dowkey 402 series relay which has good performance to GHz. It does not short the unused port.
Continue reading Coax switches – is shorting unused port necessary for isolation?