nanoVNA – tuning stubs using TDR mode

From time to time I have discussions with correspondents who are having difficulties using an antenna analyser or a VNA to find / adjust tuned lengths of transmission lines. I will treat analyser as synonymous with VNA for this discussion.

The single most common factor in their cases is an attempt to use TDR mode of the VNA.

Does it matter?

Well, hams do fuss over the accuracy of quarter wave sections used in matching systems when they are not all that critical… but if you are measuring the tuned line lengths that connect the stages of a repeater duplexer, the lengths are quite critical if you want to achieve the best notch depths.

That said, only the naive think that a nanoVNA is suited to the repeater duplexer application where you would typically want to measure notches well over 90dB.

Is it really a TDR?

The VNA is not a ‘true’ TDR, but an FDR (Frequency Domain Reflectometer) where a range of frequencies are swept and an equivalent time domain response is constructed using an Inverse Fast Fourier Transform (IFFT).

In the case of a FDR, the maximum cable distance and the resolution are influenced by the frequency range swept and the number of points in the sweep.

\(d_{max}=\frac{c_0 vf (points-1)}{2(F_2-F_1)}\\resolution=\frac{c_0 vf}{2(F_2-F_1)}\\\) where c0 is the speed of light, 299792458m/s.

Let’s consider the hand held nanoVNA which has its best performance below 300MHz and sweeps 101 points. If we sweep from 1 to 299MHz (to avoid the inherent glitch at 300MHz), we have a maximum distance of 33.2m and resolution of 0.332m. Continue reading nanoVNA – tuning stubs using TDR mode

nanoVNA – measuring cable velocity factor – demonstration

The article nanoVNA – measuring cable velocity factor discussed ways of measuring the velocity factor of common coax cable. This article is a demonstration of one of the methods, 2: measure velocity factor with your nanoVNA then cut the cable.

Two lengths of the same cable were selected to measure with the nanoVNA and calculate using Velocity factor solver. The cables are actually patch cables of nominally 1m and 2.5m length. Importantly they are identical in EVERY respect except the length, same cable off the same roll, same connectors, same temperature etc.

Above is the test setup. The nanoVNA is OSL calibrated at the external side of the SMA saver (the gold coloured thing on the SMA port), then an SMA(M)-N(F) adapter and the test cable. The other end of the test cable is left open (which is fine for N type male connectors). Continue reading nanoVNA – measuring cable velocity factor – demonstration

nanoVNA – measuring cable velocity factor

With the popularity of the nanoVNA, one of the applications that is coming up regularly in online discussion is the use to measure velocity factor of cable and / or tuning of phasing sections in antenna feeds.

‘Tuning’ electrical lengths of transmission line sections

Online experts offer a range of advice including:

  1. use the datasheet velocity factor;
  2. measure velocity factor with your nanoVNA then cut the cable;
  3. measure the ‘tuned’ length observing input impedance of the section with the nanoVNA; and
  4. measure the ‘tuned’ length using the nanoVNA TDR facility.

All of these have advantages and pitfalls in some ways, some are better suited to some applications, others may be quite unsuitable.

Let’s make the point that these sections are often not highly critical in length, especially considering that in actual use, the loads are not perfect. One application where they are quite critical is the tuned interconnections in a typical repeater duplexer where the best response depends on quite exact tuning of lengths. Continue reading nanoVNA – measuring cable velocity factor

(How) does this balun work? (Tonna / F9FT balun for Yagis)

This article proposes an explanation of how the balun used on some Tonna Yagis works.

It appears Tonna no longer manufactures these antennas, I do not know if this design is novel. I do not recall seeing them used by other manufacturers, they may be protected by patent.

Above is a pic of the balun structure on a 2m antenna.

Above, the manual shows that the black sleeve on the balun sleeve would be slid up over the coax connector, making a neat finish. There are slightly different versions for 70cm antennas. Continue reading (How) does this balun work? (Tonna / F9FT balun for Yagis)

nanoVNA-H – measure ferrite transformer – Noelec balun

At nanoVNA-H – measure ferrite transformer I gave an example of using a nanovna to measure loss of a ferrite cored transformer.

Noelec makes a small transformer, the Balun One Nine, pictured above and they offer a set of |s11| and |s12| curves. Continue reading nanoVNA-H – measure ferrite transformer – Noelec balun

MFJ ATU hand effects on capacitor knobs

The problem

Users of some ATUs may have noticed particular sensitivity to hands on the capacitor adjustment knobs. It is a common problem with cheap implementations of the T match as the capacitor rotor is usually at high RF voltage and if that shaft is extended to the adjustment knob, under certain circumstances tuning becomes very sensitive to hands on the knobs.

In some of these implementations, if the users hand touches the metal grub screw in the knob, or the metal panel bushing behind the knob they may get a significant RF burn.

The cause

Let’s use the MFJ-949E as a discussion example. It is a T match, and the metal capacitor shafts in the knobs and panel bushings carry RF voltages.

So why is this only sometimes a problem?

The RF voltage across the coil, and impressed on the capacitor shafts can be extremely high when using loads with small resistance and large negative reactance, more so on the lower bands. Continue reading MFJ ATU hand effects on capacitor knobs

WIA 4:1 current balun – further measurements

4-101a

I mentioned in my article WIA 4:1 current balun that the use of a single toroidal core in the above graphic compromises the balun. This article presents some simple measurements and analysis that question whether the balun works as so many users think.

The popularity of the balun derives from the work of VK2DQ and is often known as the VK2DQ 4:1 current balun (though probably not his invention).

Analysis at the limits

Often, analysis of a network as frequency approaches zero or infinity can simplify the analysis whilst allowing a reasonable test of the sanity of the design.

Above is a conventional transformer schematic of the WIA 4:1 current balun on a perfectly symmetric (balanced) load. At frequencies where the electrical length of each winding is very short, we can assume negligible phase delay along or between windings, simplifying analysis greatly. Continue reading WIA 4:1 current balun – further measurements

4:1 current balun – identifying bad ones

Correspondents have informed me that the balun dealt with in article 4:1 current balun – review and fix and variants are very common. This article gives a checklist of common issues and some basic measurements using an antenna analyser that should reveal some issues without breaking into a sealed assembly.

Introduction

Baluns are commonly employed to obtain nearly balanced feed line currents (ie negligible common mode current) in two wire lines or negligible common mode current on coaxial feed lines. This article discusses baluns for that application.

A very common 4:1 current balun is Guanella’s 4:1 current balun, but there are others including pretenders.

Three common 4:1 current baluns

Guanella 4:1 current balun

(Guanella 1944) described a 4:1 current balun in his 1944 article, he did not show the winding pairs coupled by a magnetic core as shown above.

Guanella421

Above is Guanella’s circuit, and he does not show coupling between the two winding pairs.

Properly implemented, this device is known to work very well.

Sevick’s single core 4:1 current balun

Let us look at Sevick’s device because it underlies so many failures.

If you look at it very carefully, you will see that the two output wires emerge from opposite sides of the core, the left hand wire exiting under the core was wound from front to back of the core and the right hand wire exiting on top of the core was wound from back to front of the core. Continue reading 4:1 current balun – identifying bad ones