Measuring modulation index of an amplitude modulated wave with an oscilloscope

A oscilloscope can be used to measure the modulation index of an amplitude modulated wave. Modulation index is a value from 0 to `1, but is often expressed as a percentage.

The discussion here assumes symmetric modulation, it does not apply to super modulation schemes or any other schemes that are asymmetric.

Envelope method

If an oscilloscope is used to display the modulation envelope (as it is known), modulation index can be calculated from measured values of the peak voltage at the crest and valley of the envelope waveform.

Modulation index can be calculated as \(m=\frac{b-a}{b+a}\). Continue reading Measuring modulation index of an amplitude modulated wave with an oscilloscope

U.FL connectors – hints

This article expands on discussion at nanoVNA – that demo board and its U.FL connectors.

Before looking at the specifics of the Hirose U.FL connector, clean connectors work better and last longer. That should not be a revelation.

A can of IPA cleaner and a good air puffer are invaluable for cleaning connectors. The air puffer show  has a valve in the right hand end, it doesn’t suck the dirt and solvent out of the connector and blow it back like most cheap Chinese puffers, this one was harder to find and expensive ($10!). Continue reading U.FL connectors – hints

The need for infinite preamplifier gain?

A recent posting on social media kicked off some discussion about infinite gain preamplifiers, mostly in the context of an unloaded very short vertical.

Over the past couple of years I’ve had a number of comments and questions about active antennas, instigated by my ARRL book, Receiving Antennas for the Radio Amateur.

The “main ingredient” of an active antenna (in this discussion, we’ll center on the very short WHIP), is the preamplifier, which generally takes the form of an FET source follower.

A true source follower (or ideal cathode follower) is theoretically capable of INFINITE power gain). In practice, modern FET input op-amps have an input resistance on the order of a teraohm or so, and an input capacitance of about a picofarad.

Although we can’t QUITE get to infinite power gain with a real FET (or FET input op amp), we can get EXTREMELY high power gains. Assuming an output (source) resistance of 1Kohm and an input resistance of 1 teraohm, a voltage follower will have a power gain of 10^21:1…..not too shabby. (This is assuming essentially a DC signal, where the input parallel capacitance can be ignored).

At this point in time, there has been no mention of noise… but it is key to the problem. Continue reading The need for infinite preamplifier gain?

ICSP programming of the (tr)uSDX

I noted some online discussions where some people had troubles using an ICSP programmer to program the MCU.

I do not have a (tr)uSDX, but inspection of the schematic does hint what those users are doing wrong.

Loading the SCK, MOSI and MISO lines risks problems with operation of the SPI protocol used, but the effect depends to some extent on the driver, length and type of interconnecting cable etc.

Here are some measurements of a USBasp driving an Arduino board with 5V Atmega328P 16MHz chip using about 200mm of ribbon cable… AND the MOSI line is loaded with a 0.01µF capacitor (as in the (tr)uSDX schematic).

As mentioned, ISCP uses an SPI protocol and the capture above uses blue for SCK and cyan for MOSI. Continue reading ICSP programming of the (tr)uSDX

Switching times in Class-E RF power amplifiers

Class-E RF power amplifiers have become quite fashionable in ham radio in the last decade or two.

One of, if not the main contribution to efficiency in a Class-E RF amplifier is the operation of the active device in switching mode where it is either not conducting, or conducting hard (saturated, with very little voltage across it). Both of these are very low dissipation conditions, but in the transition between these states there is significant current and voltage present, the product of which gives significant instantaneous power… so the idea is to make this transition very fast so that the average power is low.

This article discusses effect of slowed switching times on PA efficiency.

Above is a circuit above is from (Sokal 2001) which explains the amplifier and gives guidance on selection of components. Continue reading Switching times in Class-E RF power amplifiers

NanoVNA-H4 – inductor challenge – part 7

One method described online on YouTube and in social media is the 90° method as I will call it.

The reason why people make measurements at +/- 90 degrees on the smith chart is because the measurement accuracy using the shunt configuration when trying to measure the nominal value of an inductor or capacitor is highest at 0+j50 ohms (or 0-j50 ohms… OD).

To be clear, this is the phase of s11 or Γ being + or – 90° as applicable.

Is there something optimal when phase of s11 is + or – 90°?

Does the software / firmware / hardware give significantly more accurate response under such a termination?

Above is a diagram from a HP publication, slightly altered to suit the discussion. Continue reading NanoVNA-H4 – inductor challenge – part 7

NanoVNA – measuring Q of an inductor using s21 – fails?

There is a fashion of seeing s21 measurements as the answer to all things, and amongst the revelations is an explanation of measuring inductor Q using s21 shunt through configuration.

Let’s explore the use of s21 shunt through to directly find the half power bandwidth of a series tuned circuit and calculate the Q from that and the resonant frequency (as demonstrated by online posters).

To eliminate most of the uncertainties of measurement, let’s simulate it in Simsmith.

The simulation has a series tuned circuit resonated at 3400kHz, and the source and plot are set to calculate |s21| in dB. Though the model specifies Q independent of frequency, the D block adjusts Q for a constant equivalent series resistance (ESR) which simplifies discussion of resonance and Q. Continue reading NanoVNA – measuring Q of an inductor using s21 – fails?

Sontheimer coupler – transformer issues

It is not uncommon that ham designs for Sontheimer coupers (aka Tandem coupler, Grebenkemper coupler) fall short in the design of the magnetic components resulting in one or both of:

  • high InsertionVSWR; and
  • high core loss.

The above circuit is from (Grebenkemper 1987) and is an embodiment of (Sontheimer 1966). In their various forms, this family of couplers have one or sometimes two transformers with their primary in shunt with the through line. Let’s focus on transformer T2. It samples the though line RF voltage, and its magnetising impedance and transformed load appear in shunt with the through line. T2’s load is usually insignificant, but its magnetising impedance is significant and is often a cause of: Continue reading Sontheimer coupler – transformer issues

NanoVNA – Port 1 port extension

A VNA is usually calibrated by the user at some chosen reference plane using standard parts, commonly an open circuit, short circuit, and nominal (50Ω) load. As a result of this OSL calibration, the VNA is able to correct measured s11 to that reference plane, and display its results wrt that reference plane.

There are occasions where it is not possible, or not convenient to locate the DUT at the reference plane. This article discusses the problem created, and some solutions that might give acceptable accuracy for the application at hand.

The discussion assumes the VNA is calibrated for nominal 50+j0Ω.

Above is a diagram of a configuration where the unknown Zl is not located exactly at the reference plane, but at some extension. Continue reading NanoVNA – Port 1 port extension

NanoVNA – DiSlord NanoVNA-D v1.1.00 & NanoVNA-App-v1.1.209-OD10 calibration

This article explains the interworking of DiSlord NanoVNA-D v1.1.00 firmware and NanoVNA-App-v1.1.209-OD10 with respect to calibration.

This applies to the specific combination of versions of firmware and software client, do not assume it applies to other combinations.

DiSlord NanoVNA-D v1.1.00 firmware supports a scan_bin command where bit 3 of the outmask field is used to request raw measurement data, ie uncorrected measurements.

NanoVNA-App-v1.1.209-OD10 supports exploitation of that capability when it recognises that firmware version and command support.

Above, NanoVNA-App-v1.1.209-OD10  has a dropdown list to choose calibration mode. Continue reading NanoVNA – DiSlord NanoVNA-D v1.1.00 & NanoVNA-App-v1.1.209-OD10 calibration