A Smith chart view of EFHW transformer compensation

I have written several articles on design of high ratio ferrite cored transformers for EFHW antennas.

Having selected a candidate core, the main questions need to be answered:

  • how many turns are sufficient for acceptable InsertionVSWR at low frequencies and core loss; and
  • what value of shunt capacitance best compensates the effect of leakage inductance at high frequencies?

Lets look at a simplified equivalent circuit of such a transformer, and all components are referred to the 50Ω input side of the transformer.

Above is a simplified model that will illustrate the issues. For simplicity, the model is somewhat idealised in that the components are lossless. Continue reading A Smith chart view of EFHW transformer compensation

Stacking of Yagis and antenna effective aperture

The matter of stacking Yagis for improved gain is it seems a bit of a black art (and it should not be).

A common piece of advice is to visualise the capture area of the individual Yagi, and to stack them so that their capture areas just touch… with the intimation that if they overlap, then significant gain is lost.

Above is a diagram from F4AZF illustrating the concept. Similar diagrams exist on plenty of web sites, so it may not be original to F4AZF. Continue reading Stacking of Yagis and antenna effective aperture

Desk review of the AAA-1C as an active dipole antenna

The AAA-1C is an amplifier for small receiving antennas by LZ1AQ. The amplifier is designed for use with one or two small loops or a short dipole (possibly comprising two small loops).

The datasheet contains some specifications that should allow calculation of S/N degradation (SND) in a given ambient noise context (such as ITU-R P.372). Of particular interest to me is the frequency range 2-30MHz, but mainly 2-15MHz.

The specifications would appear to be based on models of the active antenna in free space, or measurements of the device using a dummy antenna. So, the challenge is to derive some equivalent noise estimates that can be compared to P.372 ambient noise, and with adjustment for the likely effects of real ground.

Key specifications:

  • plot of measured output noise of the amplifier, and receiver noise in 1kHz ENB;
  • Antenna Factor (AF) from a simulation.

Above is the published noise measurements at the receiver input terminals. The graph was digitised and then a cubic spline interpolation used to populate a table. Continue reading Desk review of the AAA-1C as an active dipole antenna

Small untuned loop for receiving – a design walk through #4

Small untuned loop for receiving – a design walk through #1 arrived at a design concept comprising an untuned small loop loaded with a broadband amp with input Z being a constant resistive value and with frequency independent gain and noise figure.

In that instance, the design approach was to find a loop geometry that when combined with a practical amplifier of given (frequency independent) NoiseFigure (NF), would achieve a given worst case S/N degradation (SND). Whilst several options for amplifier Rin were considered in the simple analytical model, the NEC mode of the antenna in presence of real ground steered the design to Rin=100Ω.

A question that commonly arises is that of Rin, there being two predominant schools of thought:

  • Rin should be very low, of the order of 2Ω; and
  • Rin should be the ‘standard’ 50Ω.

Each is limiting… often the case of simplistic Rules of Thumb (RoT).

Let’s plot loop gain and antenna factor for two scenarios, Rin=2Ω and Rin=100Ω (as used in the final design) from the simple model of the loop used at Small untuned loop for receiving – a design walk through #2.

Above, loop gain is dominated by the impedance mismatch between the source with Zs=Rr+Xl and the load being Rin. We can see that the case of Rin=100Ω achieves higher gain at the higher frequencies by way of less mismatch loss than the Rin=2Ω case. Continue reading Small untuned loop for receiving – a design walk through #4

Small untuned loop for receiving – a design walk through #3

Small untuned loop for receiving – a design walk through #1 arrived at a design concept comprising an untuned small loop loaded with a broadband amp with input Z being a constant resistive value and with frequency independent gain and noise figure.

Small untuned loop for receiving – a design walk through #2 developed a simple spreadsheet model of the loop in free space loaded by the amplifier andperformed some basic SND calculations arriving at a good candidate to take to the next stage, NEC modelling.

The simple models previously used relied upon a simple formula for predicting radiation resistance Rr in free space, and did not capture the effects of proximity of real ground. The NEC model will not be subject to those limitations, and so the model can be run from 0.5-30MHz.

The chosen geometry was:

  • loop perimeter: 3.3m;
  • conductor diameter: 20mm;
  • transformer ratio to 50Ω amplifier: 0.7; and
  • height of the loop centre: 2m;
  • ground: average (σ=0.005 εr=13).

NEC-5.0 model results

The effect of interaction with nearby real ground is to modify the free space radiation pattern. The pattern at low frequencies has maximum gain at the zenith, and above about 15MHz the pattern spreads and maximum gain is at progressively lower elevation. For the purposes of a simple comparison, the AntennaFactor was calculated for external plan wave excitation at 45° elevation in the plane of the loop.

Above is a plot of loop Gain and AntennaFactor at 45° elevation along the loop axis. The frequency range is 0.5-30MHz as the NEC model is not limited by the simple Rr formula. Additionally there is some ‘ground gain’ of around 5dB due to lossy reflection of waves from the ground interface. Continue reading Small untuned loop for receiving – a design walk through #3

Small untuned loop for receiving – a design walk through #2

Small untuned loop for receiving – a design walk through #1 arrived at a design concept comprising an untuned small loop loaded with a broadband amp with input Z being a constant resistive value and with frequency independent gain and noise figure.

Loop amplifier

There have been many credible designs of loop amplifiers of gain in the region of 25+dB and NoiseFigure NF around 2dB. So lets work with that as a practical type of amplifier, though we will not commit to input Z just yet.

I might note that a certain active loop manufacturer claims NF in the small tenths of a dB, but it appears they needed to invent their own method of measurement… when questions the credibility of their claims.

Let’s calculate the NF of a cascade of the NF=8dB receiver, coax with loss of 2dB and a loop amplifier with NF=2dB and Gain=25dB.

The NF looking into the loop amplifier is 2.08dB. Continue reading Small untuned loop for receiving – a design walk through #2

Small untuned loop for receiving – a design walk through #1

This series of articles develops a simple design for a small receive only broadband loop for the frequency range 0.5-10MHz, and to deliver fairly good practical sensitivity.

Fairly good practical sensitivity is to mean that the recovered S/N ratio is not much worse than the off-air S/N ratio. Let’s quantify not much worse as the Signal to Noise Degradation (SND) statistic calculated as \(SND=10 log\frac{N_{int}+N_{ext}}{N_{ext}}\), and lets set a limit that \(SND<3 dB\).

Since Next is part of the criteria, let’s explore it.

External noise

ITU-R P.372 gives us guidance on the expected median noise levels in a range of precincts. Since most hams operate in residential areas, you might at first think the Residential precint is the most appropriate, but ambient noise more like the Rural precinct is commonly observed in residential areas, so let’s choose Rural as a slightly ambitious target.

Above is Fig 39 from ITU-R P.372-14 showing the ambient noise figure for the range of precincts. Readers will not that that are all lines sloping downwards with increasing frequency, so the external noise floor is greater at lower frequencies in this range. Continue reading Small untuned loop for receiving – a design walk through #1

Performance of a small transmitting loop with varying height – NEC-5.0

Around 2015 I constructed a series of models exploring the effect of ground proximity on a small transmitting loop (STL).

At frequency 7.2MHz, the loop was octagonal with area of 1m^2 equivalent radius a=0.443m, ka=0.067rad, 3.15mm radius copper conductor, lossless tuning capacitor, and centre height above ground (σ=0.007  εr=17 ) was varied from 1.5 to 10m (0.036-0.240λ).

The model series was run in NEC-2, NEC-4.1, NEC-4.2 and NEC-5.0, and the results varied. NEC-4.1 showed serious problems, eg negative input resistance at some heights. The problem was discussed the Burke, and he explained that there was a known problem in NEC-4.1 for small loops near ground, and sent me an upgrade to NEC-4.2 to try with the GN 3 ground model, but that the better solution was in NEC-5 if it was ever released.

NEC-4.2 solved the negative resistance problem, but some issues remained.

With the recent release of NEC-5.0, opportunity arises to compare all four approaches.

(Burke 2019) p45 discusses loop antennas over ground and NEC-5.0.

The plot above of radiation efficiency gives an overall comparison of the different model techniques. (Burke 2019) states Since the mixed-potential solution ensures that the approximated integral of scalar potential around the loop is zero, whether the potential is accurate or not, it might be expected to do better than NEC-4. Continue reading Performance of a small transmitting loop with varying height – NEC-5.0

An experimental propagation beacon on 144MHz

An experimental beacon on 144MHz has been deployed for evaluation.

Details:

  • frequency: 144.245MHz, 144.244MHz USB dial freq, 144.245MHZ dial frequency in CW mode on modern transceivers (accuracy should be withing 200Hz);
  • power: 20W EIRP towards Melbourne (225°) from Bowral, NSW, horizontally polarised, antenna is 6m AGL;
  • modulation: ~5 minute cycle uses A1 Morse modulation (OOK) QRSS1 (1s dits) callsign (VK2OMD) followed by key down for the rest of the cycle.

The oscillator on the keyer can have accuracy as bad as 1000ppm, and a power interruption would cause it to restart at a random time, so the modulation pattern is not syncronised to the wall clock.

The narrow band modulation means it can be decoded in 1Hz receiver bandwidth, allowing decoding with packages such as SpectrumLab some 20dB or more lower than by ear.

Above is a screenshot from SpectrumLab, albeit a relatively strong signal where S/N in 2kHz is about 0dB… but as can be seen from the plots, there is around 30dB of margin left. A settings file for SpectrumLab is linked below. Continue reading An experimental propagation beacon on 144MHz

Small untuned loop for receiving – it’s not rocket science

I have written several articles on untuned loops for receiving, as have others. A diversity of opinions abounds over several aspects, but opinions don’t often translate to sound theory.

This article analyses a simple untuned / unmatched loop in the context of a linear receive system.

An example simple loop for discussion

Let’s consider a simple single turn untuned loop with an ideal broadband transformer. The example loop is 3.14m perimeter and 10mm diameter conductor situated in free space. The loop has perimeter 0.0744λ at 7.1MHz, less than λ/10 up to 9MHz, so we can regard that loop current is uniform in magnitude and phase. This simplifies analysis greatly.

Above is a schematic diagram of the example loop. The transformer initially is a 1:1 ideal transformer, it serves to isolate the loop from a coaxial feedline, allowing fairly good loop symmetry and reduction of common mode feed line current contribution to pickup. This works, and subject to symmetry and a good transformer design, it will work well over the stated frequency range, though its gain at some frequencies might not be sufficient to overcome receiver internal noise. Continue reading Small untuned loop for receiving – it’s not rocket science