nanoVNA – evaluation of a voltage balun – W2AU 1:1

In this article, I will outline an evaluation of a ‘classic’ voltage balun, the 1:1 W2AU voltage balun, specified for 1.8-30MHz.

These were very popular at one time, but good voltage baluns achieve good current balance ONLY on very symmetric loads and so are not well suited to most wire antennas.

Above is W2AU’s illustration of the internals.

Mine barely saw service before it became obvious that it had an intermittent connection to the inner pin of the coax connector. That turned out to be a poor soldered joint, a problem that is apparently quite common and perhaps the result of not properly removing the wire enamel before soldering.

Having cut the enclosure to get at the innards and fix it (they were not intended to be repaired), I rebuilt it in a similar enclosure made from plumbing PVC pipe and caps, and took the opportunity to fit some different output terminals and an N type coax connector.

W2auBalun01

Above is the rebuilt balun which since that day has been reserved for test kit for evaluating the performance of a voltage balun in some scenario or another. Continue reading nanoVNA – evaluation of a voltage balun – W2AU 1:1

what-exactly-happens-to-the-signals-hitting-a-common-mode-choke?

An image from what-exactly-happens-to-the-signals-hitting-a-common-mode-choke doesn’t quite look right.

In respect of the first part, inductance \(L=\frac{\phi(i)}{i}\) so if the windings are equal, half the total current flows in each winding and each contributes flux due to i/2, total current is i, total flux is twice that due to i/2, so the inductance of the parallel equal windings is the same as if i flowed in a single winding, ie L of the combination is the same as the inductance of each of the equal windings alone. Continue reading what-exactly-happens-to-the-signals-hitting-a-common-mode-choke?

Some pretty woolly thinking about the operation of common mode chokes in antenna systems

One of the notions one often sees discussed is that at RF, some device inserted in a relatively long (meaning wrt wavelength) conducting path is likely to lead to interruption of the circuit in the way that a switch might in a DC circuit. Another variant is one where current flows on one side of the device and not the other… a fence as explained in the following text by one poster.

With a current balun or CM choke, it is the reactance (inductance) that is mostly responsible for the balun action. In the case of the choke balun, beads installed along the coax at the feed with 31 or 43 material, they form a reflective ‘filter’. There is some absorption, but most of the action is due to reflection from the inductive reactance they form installed on a conductor. As such, they form a high-Z isolation point between the feeder and the antenna center, assuming they are installed at the feedpoint of the doublet. In the case of the CM choke, the common mode currents are reflected by the inductive reactance of the windings as with the current balun and the balance of current between the two conductors is forced through induced opposing magnetic currents within the cone. This is the reason I prefer the CM choke for the purpose. In either case, the common mode current is reflected to a large extent by the inductive reactance back where it originated. Installation of a balun at the feedpoint of a doublet does not make the CM currents go away, it just establishes a ‘fence’ for those currents between non-antenna associated currents (on the outside of the feedline) and the radiating structure.

Let us explore some NEC models with three ‘devices’ to attempt to confine current to the lower conductor:

  • a gap;
  • a large pure inductive reactance;
  • a large pure resistance.

Gap

The first is at 10MHz a vertical conductor over a perfectly conducting earth, and space 0.1m above it, another vertical conductor.

Above is the current distribution showing phase and amplitude, the gap is at one third the height. It is not totally clear from the 2D rendering of a 3D characteristic, but the phase in the upper two thirds is opposite to the phase in the lower third, and this is by virtue of the lengths which are approximately a quarter and half wavelength. Continue reading Some pretty woolly thinking about the operation of common mode chokes in antenna systems

Active monopole + RTL SDR + RPi Spyserver experiment

A brief experiment was conducted of a remote HF receiver using:

  • 1m active monopole;
  • RTL-2832U v3 SDR dongle;
  • RPi 3B+ running Spyserver; and
  • SdrSharp client.

Above is the active whip antenna. Not optimal mounting, but as you can see from the clamps, a temporary mount but one that does not confuse results with feed line common mode contribution. Continue reading Active monopole + RTL SDR + RPi Spyserver experiment

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

The devil is in the detail – real world transmission lines and loss under standing waves

We are traditionally taught transmission line theory starting with the concept of complex propagation constant γ, and that loss in a section of line is \(Loss=20log_{10}( l |\gamma|) dB\) where l is length. That is the ‘one way’ loss in a travelling wave, also the the matched line loss (MLL) (as there is no reflected wave).

There are some popular formulas and charts that purport to properly estimate the loss under standing waves or mismatch conditions, usually in the form of a function of VSWR and MLL, more on this later.

Let’s explore theoretical calculations of loss for a very short section of common RG58 at 3.6MHz with two different load scenarios.

The scenarios are:

  • Zload=5+j0Ω (VSWR(50)=10); and
  • Zload=500+j0Ω (VSWR(50)=10).

Above is the RF Transmission Line Loss Calculator (TLLC) input form. A similar case was run for Zload=500Ω. Continue reading The devil is in the detail – real world transmission lines and loss under standing waves

The devil is in the detail – real world transmission lines and ReturnLoss

We are traditionally taught transmission line theory starting with the concept of complex propagation constant γ and then dealing with them as lossless lines (means Zo is purely real) or low loss distortionless lines (means Zo is purely real).

Let’s explore theoretical calculations of ReturnLoss for a very short section of common RG58 at 3.6MHz.

By definition, \(ReturnLoss=\frac{ForwardPower}{ReflectedPower}\) and it may be expressed as \(ReturnLoss=10log_{10}\frac{ForwardPower}{ReflectedPower} dB\).

The scenarios are:

  • open circuit termination; and
  • short circuit termination.

Above is the RF Transmission Line Loss Calculator (TLLC) input form. Note that it will not accept Zload of zero or infinity, instead a very small value (1e-100) or very large value (1e100) is used. Continue reading The devil is in the detail – real world transmission lines and ReturnLoss

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 – RG6/U with CCS centre conductor MLL measurement

In my recent article RG6/U with CCS centre conductor – shielded twin study I made the point that it is naive to rely upon most line loss calculators for estimating the loss of this cable type partly because of their inability to model the loss at low HF and partly because of the confidence one might have in commonly available product. In that article I relied upon measured data for a test line section.

I have been asked if the nanoVNA could be bought to bear on the problem of measuring actual matched line loss (MLL). This article describes one method.

The nanoVNA has been OSL calibrated from 1-299MHz, and a 35m section of good RG6 quad shield CCS cable connected to Port 1 (Ch0 in nanoVNA speak).

A sweep was made from 1-30MHz with the far end open and shorted and the sweeps saved as .s1p files.

Above is a screenshot of one of the sweeps. Continue reading nanoVNA – RG6/U with CCS centre conductor MLL measurement

RG6/U with CCS centre conductor – shielded twin study

Some online experts advise the use of synthesised shielded twin instead of ordinary two wire line for HF antennas claiming it is vastly superior.

Now it could be vastly superior for several reasons in all, but let’s focus on just one important parameter, loss under mismatch conditions.

The scenario then is the very popular 132′ multi band dipole:

  • the famous 40m (132′) centre fed dipole;
  • 20m of feed line being parallel RG6/U CCS quad shield with shields bonded at both ends;
  • 7MHz where we will assume dipole feed point impedance is ~4000+j0Ω.

We will consider the system balanced and only deal with differential currents.

Now rather than depend on loss calculators, most of which don’t reconcile with measurement of CCS RG6/U, I will used measured loss. RG6/U with CCS centre conductor at HF gives a chart of measured loss of a sample of commercial grade CCS quad shield coax.

Above is a comparison of matched line loss (MLL) based on measurement of a length of RG6/U Quad Shield CCS cable and prediction from Simsmith of Belden 8215 (also CCS). The ripple is due to measurement system error, measurements were made quite some years ago with a AIMuhf. Continue reading RG6/U with CCS centre conductor – shielded twin study