A tale of three VNAs

In researching the article Analysis of output matching of a certain 25W 144MHz PA  , I made measurements using a recently ‘upgraded’ nanoVNA-H v3.3 with oneofeleven firmware v1.1.206 nanoVNA-App.exe and default supplied firmware.

Some unexpected ‘bumps’ on the measured response of a short SC transmission line section were concerning, there was no apparent explanation.

The bump around 80MHz had no obvious explanation, and appeared to be an artifact of the measurement fixture, or the instrument. The s11 values from 70-150MHz are suspect. Continue reading A tale of three VNAs

Analysis of output matching of a certain 25W 144MHz PA

Andrew, ZL2PD, contacted me regarding the matching scheme in a 25W 144MHz amplifier published in (ARRL 1977). The design no doubt appeared in many editions of the handbook. He was resurrecting an old build that just didn’t work as expected, and trying to understand why… which starts with understanding how it works, or should work.

Above is the schematic of the amplifier, analysis here is of the 25W configuration using a 2n5591. Continue reading Analysis of output matching of a certain 25W 144MHz PA

Measuring OC and SC transmission line sections

Failure estimating transmission line Zo – λ/8 method – nanoVNA discussed the potential for failure using this ‘no-brainer’ method of estimating differential mode characteristic impedance Zo, providing an NEC-4.2 model to demonstrate effects.

This article reports nanoVNA measurement of a two wire line where no common mode countermeasures were taken.

A little review of behavior of practical transmission lines

Above is a Smith chart of the complex reflection coefficient Γ (s11) looking into a length of nominally 142Ω transmission line of similar type to that in the reference article, the chart is normalised to Zref=142+j0Ω. Note the locus is a spiral, clockwise with increasing frequency, and centred on the chart prime centre Zref. More correctly it is centred on transmission line Zo, and the keen observer might note that the spirals are offset very slightly downwards, actual Zo is not exactly 142Ω, but 142-jXΩ where X is small and frequency dependent, a property of practical lines with loss. Continue reading Measuring OC and SC transmission line sections

Estimating transmission line Zo – λ/8 method – nanoVNA – success

Failure estimating transmission line Zo – λ/8 method – nanoVNA discussed the potential for failure using this ‘no-brainer’ method of estimating differential mode characteristic impedance Zo.

Well, as the article showed, it is not quite the no-brainer but with care, it can give good results. This article documents such a measurement of a 0.314mm cable.

The nanoVNA was carefully SOLT calibrated from 1 to 201MHz. Care includes that connectors are torqued to specification torque… no room here for hand tight, whether or not with some kind of handwheel adapter or surgical rubber tube etc.

Above is the Smith chart view over the frequency range from a little under λ/8 to a little over λ/8. It is as expected, a quite circular arc with no anomalies. Since the DUT is coax, and the connector is tightened to specification torque, we would expected nothing less. The situation may be different with two wire lines if great care is not taken to minimise common mode excitation. The sotware does not show Marker 2 properly, it should be between ‘c’ and ‘i’ of the word Capacitive. Continue reading Estimating transmission line Zo – λ/8 method – nanoVNA – success

A magnetics review of the VK3AMP Sontheimer directional coupler

This article documents a review of the magnetics of the ‘voltage’ transformer in the VK3AMP Sontheimer directional coupler. It is typically the most important component in determining InsertionVSWR and ReturnLoss at the lowest frequencies.

The transformer of interest is the one to the left, and if you follow the tracks, the multiturn winding is connected between ground and a track that routes across to the through line. The transformer primary appears in shunt with the through line. Continue reading A magnetics review of the VK3AMP Sontheimer directional coupler

Basic measurements of the VK3AMP Sontheimer directional coupler for a N2PK wattmeter

This article documents measurement and analysis of a VK3AMP Sontheimer directional coupler in an implementation of a 400W wattmeter design by N2PK (Kiciack nd).

I purchased one of the couplers for use with a DIY digital display, and although I have had it longer, it isn’t yet realised!

A common failing of almost all hammy Sammy designs is appalling InsertionVSWR at the lower end of the specified frequency range. This coupler is specified for 1.8-54MHz, and differently to most, has meaningful published characteristics.

In this implementation, 60mm lengths of solder soaked braid coax similar to Succoform 141 were used between the PCB and box N connectors. The expected matched line loss of both of these is about 0.01dB @ 50MHz.

The measurements here were made by VK4MQ using an Agilent E5061A ENA, data analysis by myself.

Above are the raw s parameter measurements plotted. It is a full 2 port measurement, and it can be observed that the device is not perfectly symmetric, quite adequate, and quite good compared to other ham designs that I have measured. Continue reading Basic measurements of the VK3AMP Sontheimer directional coupler for a N2PK wattmeter

Failure estimating transmission line Zo – λ/8 method – nanoVNA – Smith chart perspective

Failure estimating transmission line Zo – λ/8 method – nanoVNA discussed traps in using the λ/8 method to estimate Zo… it is not the no-brainer that is often suggested.

This article shows the use of the Smith chart to look for departures from pure transmission line behavior in that test, or any other that depends on measuring purely Zin of a length of line in purely differential mode with short circuit or open circuit termination.

Above is a Smith chart plot of what we should see looking into a line of similar characteristic swept from 1 to 20MHz. There is no magic there, this is basic transmission lines and Smith chart. Continue reading Failure estimating transmission line Zo – λ/8 method – nanoVNA – Smith chart perspective

Failure estimating transmission line Zo – λ/8 method – nanoVNA

Countless online discussions have online experts describing their various preferred methods for estimating the characteristic impedance of a transmission line… often without really testing whether their simple results are realistic, ie believable. Of course, being social media, it would be unsocial for another participant to question the results, so the unchallenged becomes part of ham lore.

Apparent gross failures are often wrongly attributed to factors like manufacturing tolerances, polluted line surface, other esoteric factors etc that might imply a knowledgeable author… but that is social media, an unreliable source of information.

Let’s explore an estimate using measurements with a nanoVNA using the popular eighth wavelength (λ/8) method.

λ/8 method

The λ/8 method relies upon the property of a lossless line terminated in an open circuit that differential impedance \(Z_d=\jmath X=- \jmath \left| Z_0 \right| cot \left(\pi/4\right)=- \jmath\left| Z_0 \right|\). So, if you measure the reactance looking into the λ/8 (\(\frac{\piᶜ}{4} \:or\: 45°\)), you can estimate Zo as equal to the magnitude of the reactance.

A similar expression can be written for the case of a short circuit termination and it leads to the same result that you can estimate Zo as equal to the magnitude of the reactance (an exercise for the reader).

The fact that the two cases lead to the same result can be used to verify that the line length is in fact λ/8 (they will not be equal if the length is a little different to λ/8)… though writeups rarely mention this, or perform the test.

So, the method depends critically on:

  • whether the line length is λ/8;
  • whether it is sufficiently low loss; and
  • whether the differential impedance measurement is valid.

Most online articles do not include details of the measurement setup, perhaps thinking that it not all that relevant. Of course, one of the greatest failings in experiments is to ignore some factor that is in fact relevant. Continue reading Failure estimating transmission line Zo – λ/8 method – nanoVNA

Select a ferrite core material and sufficient primary turns for a low InsertionVSWR 50Ω broadband RF transformer – comparison of measured and predicted

Select a ferrite core material and sufficient primary turns for a low InsertionVSWR 50Ω broadband RF transformer – nanoVNA described a method of using a nanoVNA to select by trial possible core and turns combinations for a transformer.

This article compares the results for the FT240-43 example at 3.5MHz with calculation using tools on this web site.

Simple low frequency equivalent circuit

Above is a very simple approximation of an ideal 1:1 transformer where the effects of flux leakage and conductor loss are ignored. A 1:n transformer can be modelled the same way, as if flux leakage and conductor loss are ignored, the now ideally transformed secondary load becomes 50Ω. Continue reading Select a ferrite core material and sufficient primary turns for a low InsertionVSWR 50Ω broadband RF transformer – comparison of measured and predicted