A 1:1 RF transformer for measurements – based on noelec 1:9 balun assembly

The Noelec 1:9 balun (or perhaps Chinese knock off) is available quite cheaply on eBay and provides a good hardware base for a 1:1 version.

Above is a modified device with the transformer replaced with a Macom ETC1-1T-2TR 1:1 transformer. The replacement is not exactly the same pads, but it is sufficiently compatible to install easily. The track is cut to disconnect the secondary centre tap, essentially allowing the secondary to float and so have higher common mode impedance than with the centre tap grounded.

The most notable departure from ideal of these small transformers is leakage inductance of 50nH give or take. Continue reading A 1:1 RF transformer for measurements – based on noelec 1:9 balun assembly

Measurement of recent ‘FT240-43’ core parameters

This article reports measurement of two ‘FT240-43’ cores (actually Fair-rite 5943003801 ‘inductive’ toroids, ie not suppression product) purchased together around 2019, so quite likely from the same manufacturing batch. IIRC, the country of origin was given as China, it is so for product ordered today from element14. The measurements are of 1t on the core, with very short connections to a nanoVNA OSL calibrated from 1-50MHz.

Above, the measurement fixture is simply a short piece of 0.5mm solid copper wire (from data cable) zip tied to the external thread of the SMA jack, and the other end wrapped around the core and just long enough to insert into the inner female pin of the SMA jack. Continue reading Measurement of recent ‘FT240-43’ core parameters

nanoVNA – measuring cable velocity factor – demonstration – open wire line

The article nanoVNA – measuring cable velocity factor – demonstration demonstrated measurement of velocity factor of a section of coaxial transmission line. This article demonstrates the technique on a section of two wire copper line.

A significant difference in the two wire line is that we want the line to operate in balanced mode during the test, that there is insignificant common mode current. To that end, a balun will be used on the nanoVNA.

Above, the balun is a home made 1:4 balun that was at hand (the ratio is not too important as the fixture is calibrated at the balun secondary terminals). This balun is wound like a voltage balun, but the secondary is isolated from the input in that it does not have a ‘grounded’ centre tap. There is of course some distributed coupling, but the common mode impedance is very high at the frequencies being used for the test. Continue reading nanoVNA – measuring cable velocity factor – demonstration – open wire line

nanoVNA – experts on improvised fixtures

A newbie wanting to measure a CB (27MHz) antenna with a UHF plug when his nanoVNA has an SMA connector sought advice of the collected experts on groups.io.

One expert advised that 100mm wire clip leads would work just fine. Another expert expanded on that with When lengths approach 1/20 of a wavelength in free space, you should consider and use more rigorous connections.

At Antenna analyser – what if the device under test does not have a coax plug on it? I discussed using clip leads and estimated for those shown that they behaved like a transmission line segment with Zo=200Ω and vf=0.8. Continue reading nanoVNA – experts on improvised fixtures

Simsmith bimetal line type – revision #1

This article is a revision of an article Simsmith bimetal line type for Simsmith v17.2 and revisions to my own model for current distribution in a conductor.

This article discusses various measurements and models of Wireman 551 windowed ladder line, including adapting Simsmith’s bimetal line type to bear on the problem.


A starting point for characterising the matched line loss (MLL) of the very popular Wireman 551 (W551) windowed ladder line is the extrapolation of measurements by (Stewart 1999) to 1.8MHz. Since the measurements were made at and above 50MHz where the W551 has copper like performance, this is likely to underestimate actual MLL and such wide extrapolation introduces its own uncertainty. Nevertheless, the datapoint is MLL=0.00227dB/m.

This is a revision of an article written in Feb 2020, capturing revision of Simsmith to v17.2 and revision of my own current distribution model.

Dan Maquire recently posted a chart summarising measurements of these lines.

For the purposes of this article, let’s tabulate the MLL at 1.8MHz in dB/m. Continue reading Simsmith bimetal line type – revision #1

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

SDR# (v1.0.0.1732) – channel filter exploration

With plans to use an RTL-SDR dongle and SDR# (v1.0.0.1732) for an upcoming project, the Equivalent Noise Bandwidth (ENB) of several channel filter configurations were explored.

A first observation of listening to a SSB telephony signal is an excessive low frequency rumble from the speaker indicative of a baseband response to quite low frequencies, much lower than needed or desirable for SSB telephony.

500Hz CW filter

The most common application of such a filter is reception of A1 Morse code.

Above is a screenshot of the filter settings. Continue reading SDR# (v1.0.0.1732) – channel filter exploration

Noise figure of active loop amplifiers – the Ikin dynamic impedance method

Noise figure of active loop amplifiers – some thoughts discussed measurement of internal noise with particular application of active broadband loop antennas.

(Ikin 2016) proposes a different method of measuring noise figure NF.

Therefore, the LNA noise figure can be derived by measuring the noise with the LNA input terminated with a resistor equal to its input impedance. Then with the measurement repeated with the resistor removed, so that the LNA input is terminated by its own Dynamic Impedance. The difference in the noise ref. the above measurements will give a figure in dB which is equal to the noise reduction of the LNA verses thermal noise at 290K. Converting the dB difference into an attenuation power ratio then multiplying this by 290K gives the LNA Noise Temperature. Then using the Noise Temperature to dB conversion table yields the LNA Noise Figure. See Table 1.

The explanation is not very clear to me, and there is no mathematical proof of the technique offered… so a bit unsatisfying… but it is oft cited in ham online discussions.

I have taken the liberty to extend Ikin’s Table 1 to include some more values of column 1 for comparison with a more conventional Y factor test of a receiver’s noise figure.

Above is the extended table. The formulas in all cells of a column are the same, the highlighted row is for later reference. Continue reading Noise figure of active loop amplifiers – the Ikin dynamic impedance method

Noise figure of active loop amplifiers – some thoughts

Review of noise

Let’s review of the concepts of noise figure, equivalent noise temperature and measurement.

Firstly let’s consider the nature of noise. The noise we are discussing is dominated by thermal noise, the noise due to random thermal agitation of charge carriers in conductors. Johnson noise (as it is known) has a uniform spectral power density, ie a uniform power/bandwidth. The maximum thermal noise power density available from a resistor at temperature T is given by \(NPD=k_B T\) where Boltzman’s constant kB=1.38064852e-23 (and of course the load must be matched to obtain that maximum noise power density). Temperature is absolute temperature, it is measured in Kelvins and 0°C≅273K.

Noise Figure

Noise Figure NF by definition is the reduction in S/N ratio (in dB) across a system component. So, we can write \(NF=10 log \frac{S_{in}}{N_{in}}- 10 log \frac{S_{out}}{N_{out}}\).

Equivalent noise temperature

One of the many methods of characterising the internal noise contribution of an amplifier is to treat it as noiseless and derive an equivalent temperature of a matched input resistor that delivers equivalent noise, this temperature is known as the equivalent noise temperature Te of the amplifier.

So for example, if we were to place a 50Ω resistor on the input of a nominally 50Ω input amplifier, and raised its temperature from 0K to the point T where the noise output power of the amplifier doubled, would could infer that the internal noise of the amplifier could be represented by an input resistor at temperature T. Fine in concept, but not very practical.

Y factor method

Applying a little maths, we do have a practical measurement method which is known as the Y factor method. It involves measuring the ratio of noise power output (Y) for two different source resistor temperatures, Tc and Th. We can say that \(NF=10 log \frac{(\frac{T_h}{290}-1)-Y(\frac{T_c}{290}-1)}{Y-1}\).

AN 57-1 contains a detailed mathematical explanation / proof of the Y factor method.

We can buy a noise source off the shelf, they come in a range of hot and cold temperatures. For example, one with specified Excess Noise Ratio (a common method of specifying them) has Th=9461K and Tc=290K. If we measured a DUT and observed that Y=3 (4.77dB) we could calculate that NF=12dB. Continue reading Noise figure of active loop amplifiers – some thoughts

Finding the electrical length of the branches of an N type T – #4

Finding the electrical length of the branches of an N type T – #1 posed a problem, this article looks at one solution.

For convenience, here is the problem.

An interesting problem arises in some applications in trying to measure the electrical length of each branch of a N type T piece.

Let’s make some assumptions that the device is of quality, that the connection from each connector to the internal junction is a uniform almost lossless transmission line of Zo=50Ω. Don’t assume that the left and right branches above are of the same length (though they often are) and we should not assume that the nearest branch is of the same length as the others (and they are often not).

Before we start, we will calibrate the VNA entering the offsets appropriate to the OPEN and SHORT cal parts. In the case of my nanoVNA, measurement above 900MHz is very noisy, so the scan will be 100-890MHz (to avoid a glitch at 900MHz due to harmonic mode switching).

So, the problem is all the uncertain things that connect to the internal T junction. Lets connect a calibration quality 50Ω termination to the left hand port. We now know that the path from the male port to the remaining female port comprises lengths l2 and l1 of low loss 50Ω transmission line with a 50Ω resistor shunting at the junction of l1 and l2. Continue reading Finding the electrical length of the branches of an N type T – #4