A flexible test panel for microcontroller based power control projects

I do a lot of experiments with microcontrollers switching mains powered equipment, and the test beds have always been improvised. It has always been my intention to formalise something for convenience but mainly for better safety.

The article describes a test panel to fill that need.

The panel is constructed on a piece of 3mm aluminium sheet, drilled and tapped to take two sections of 35mm DIN rail for flexible mounting of accessories.

Above is a pic of the test panel in use to test the generic heating / cooling controller (hcctl), a flexible bang-bang controller based on an ATTiny25. Continue reading A flexible test panel for microcontroller based power control projects

What is a Ground Plane Antenna?

Ask half a dozen hams to define a Ground Plane Antenna and you will probably get half a dozen different answers, yet it is thought of as one of the basic antenna types that newcomers will be introduced to in their education.

There seems credible acceptance by some writers that the Ground Plane Antenna was invented by George Brown (more completely Brown, Lewis and Epstein (BLE)) from RCA, and is described in US Patent 2,234,333 for a Demountable Antenna  filed in 1939. The patent does not call the thing a Ground Plane Antenna, but it does describe what could be naively described as a quarter wave vertical radiator with four equally spaced quarter wave horizontal radials (plus some other embellishments).

BLE gives the dimensions for the antenna at 41.5MHz and offers that the feed point impedance is 21.5Ω, transformed up to (the then popular) 70Ω transmission line by his custom quarter wave transformer (part of the invention).

The naively basic Ground Plane Antenna

Lets look at an NEC model of the vertical quarter wave and four quarter wave radials alone (ie in free space).

An NEC-4.2 model gives the feed point impedance as 23.4+j6.11Ω. The reactance is not surprising since the elements are actually slightly longer than a free space quarter wave, and resonance would occur at a little less length. Importantly, the R value is in the ball park of their estimate, so that reconciles reasonable well. BLE do not give a gain figure, but the gain of a lossless model in NEC is 1.44dB.

Above is the pattern, no surprises there (unless you were expecting it to look like a quarter wave monopole on perfectly conducting earth). Continue reading What is a Ground Plane Antenna?

A low Insertion VSWR high Zcm Guanella 1:1 balun for HF – more detail

This article expands on the detail behind A low Insertion VSWR high Zcm Guanella 1:1 balun for HF.

Choice of core

Online experts all have a preferred core material, but there is a dearth of measurement data to show the difference in actual use. If someone recommends a particular core material and cannot provide measured Zcm data to support the recommendation, regard it as a weak recommendation.

Beware the magic of unobtainium… just because something is hard to get is not an indication that it is desirable.

Above is the complex permeability characteristic of the #43 material used. Inductance calculators that do not take that frequency dependent complex characterisitic into consideration produce invalid results. (Duffy 2015) gives a suitable approximation, and there are links to calculators that do work properly at the bottom of this article. Continue reading A low Insertion VSWR high Zcm Guanella 1:1 balun for HF – more detail

A low Insertion VSWR high Zcm Guanella 1:1 balun for HF

This article describes a Guanella 1:1 current balun which has high common mode impedance (Zcm) and low Insertion VSWR. It is for application on antennas that have low VSWR(50) on at least some bands, especially if they would be used without an ATU on some bands.

The purpose of the balun is to minimise common mode feed line current which may contribute to EMC problems when transmitting, and contribute to increased ambient noise when receiving. Reduction of feed line common mode current also helps in achievement of expected load impedance characteristic, radiation pattern and gain. This article gives measured Zcm, but the definitive test of the effectiveness of such a balun is direct measurement of common mode current Icm… and it is so easy.

Example applications are half wave centre fed dipoles, fan dipoles, trapped dipoles, G5RV with hybrid feed, ZS6BKW, trapped verticals, monopoles, ground planes.

To obtain low Insertion VSWR, the choke will be wound with 50Ω coax, to demonstrate the practicality of the design budget (but good quality) regular (ie solid PE dielectric) RG58C/U will be used. Foam dielectric is NOT recommended. Solid PTFE coax could be used, but avoid coax with steel cored inner conductor, it may be lossier than you think at low frequencies with the silver cladding is relatively thin.

The candidate core is the readily available FT240-43 (Fair-rite 2643803802, 5943003801), it is a low cost NiZn ferrite with medium µr, and its µr and loss characteristic contributes to a broad high impedance choke well suited to this application.

Above is a model of the expected Zcm with 11 turns of RG58C/U coax and an equivalent shunt capacitance of 4.6pF. Continue reading A low Insertion VSWR high Zcm Guanella 1:1 balun for HF

G3LNP balun with symmetric ‘matched’ load

My article G3LNP balun explored the operation of the G3LNP 4:1 balun on a 200Ω asymmetric load and found it exhibited extreme Insertion VSWR on what should have been an ideal impedance transformation but for the asymmetric element.

The balun is in fact a Voltage Balun and cannot be expected to work properly on asymmetric loads.

A correspondent proposes that the balun probably works very well on a nearly symmetric load such as a half wave dipole.

There are two aspectes to this proposition:

  1. the assumption that a common half wave dipole implementation is nearly symmetric; and
  2. the balun works well on a nearly symmetric load.

Continue reading G3LNP balun with symmetric ‘matched’ load

G3LNP balun

G3LNP described a 4:1 balun for HF antennas in Radcom Nov 2017.

Above is the schematic supplied by G3LNP. He describes the dashed link at the bottom as optional, but uses it in his prototype so this analysis is with that link installed. The prototype used equal lengths of coax (1m PF100, an RG-6 like coax), and the toroidal choke appears to be 8t on a T130-2 powdered iron core.

Exploration of behaviour of baluns on extreme asymmetric load often reveals whether they work properly for asymmetric loads.
Continue reading G3LNP balun

Fixes #1: magnetic stirrer with heating plate and digital display XB 85-2

Review: magnetic stirrer with heating plate and digital display XB 85-2 documented problems that prevented the device being very useful.

Attempts to tune the supplied PID controller above were frustrated by a lack of meaningful documentation supplied or found in searches on the ‘net, and the fact that the display is sometimes faked to appear that the temperature has stabilised. With any non-zero I term, it behaved badly and some observations suggest that it suffers from integral windup. It is truly a piece of Chinese junk and unusable.

Above is an independent logger capture of the temperature from switch on. There is a large overshoot, and then, no matter what the settings, it oscillates and the lowest amplitude obtained was 1°pp (above). The overshoot is almost as much as observed in manual warm up when power is cut at 40°. Continue reading Fixes #1: magnetic stirrer with heating plate and digital display XB 85-2

First full month of Amaysim broadband broadband Internet access

We have had wired broadband service delivered to these premises for almost ten years, supplied by three vendors: Telstra Bigpond, iiNet, and Amaysim.

Amaysim has supplied a 25Mb/s  broadband service for a month now and set an important baseline for service.

Above is a plot of the 90 percentile and 10 percentiles for each week so far. Continue reading First full month of Amaysim broadband broadband Internet access

A little programming adapter for 4 x 2mm pitch pads

I recently had need to attach four wires to a set of pads on a device for programming its microcontroller. The pads for these sort of things are often on difficult to solve pitch, this one is 2mm which is not too bad.

Above is the target and solution.

The target is the four vias right next to the LEDs on the daughter module. Continue reading A little programming adapter for 4 x 2mm pitch pads

A low cost 50Ω termination for measurement purposes

This article shows just how easy it is to make an inexpensive low VSWR load for antenna analyser validation / measurements.

Above is an AA-600 sweep of the prototype from 10kHz to 100MHz. VSWR reads 1.02 in ‘All’ mode at 100MHz… better than the inherent accuracy of the instrument.

How expensive?

It is made from two 100Ω 1% 1206 SM resistors purchased on eBay for about $2/100, so about $0.04 for the resistors, and 40mm of bare copper wire (0.5mm phone / data wire in this case).

In use, it is held in contact with the coax socket (in this case an N type) with a pair of disposable plastic first aid tweezers (yep, you can buy them on ebay for about $0.20/pair).

While you are at it, make a good short circuit termination by scrunching up a bit of (clean) kitchen aluminium foil and press that against the coax socket conductors.

Try both of these on your antenna analyser and see how it stacks up.