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

NEC sez…

I note the common introduction to online posts being NEC says, according to NEC, and the like.

Readers should take this to mean that the author denies their contribution in making assumptions and building the model, and the influence on the stated results.

It is basically a disclaimer that disowns their work. Continue reading NEC sez…

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

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

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 Boltzmann’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

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