Rationale for sizing of lightning down conductor

The lightning ground conductor shown at Mast ground rework might at first seem excessive, this article sets out the rationale.


The connection to a 2.4m copper clad steel driven electrode (under the green cover) is 35mm^2 copper.

The nature of lightning protection sizing

Lightning protection sizing is a risk management regime driven by the mechanisms of lightning and variation in distribution.

It is not surprising then that regulatory standards in different distributions broadly use similar design methods but set different practices for implementation in the jurisdiction.

So, let’s go standards shopping… what we are looking for is guidance on the energy (or work) that is directed to heating the down conductor, and choosing a conductor size that will sustain not just a single stroke, or an average stroke, but most events that may include many strokes in a short period of time. Continue reading Rationale for sizing of lightning down conductor

Command adapter for JRC NFG-170 NFG-230 ATU

EA2BQH described an adapter to use a JRC NFG-170 / NFG-230 ATU.

The description is in Spanish, and a Google translation doesn’t help me much, his published HEX file for a PIC12C508A helps more.

Building the device and observing the output, it seems to have two input pins and when one is high OR the other is low, it sends a ASYNC command string at 1200Bd on its output pin. The command string is repeated every 2.5s if the input condition remains. This string appears to command the ATU to review / retune.

The 12C508A is a very old chip, still available, but in low cost form, an OTP.

I have written some code for a PIC12F510 from the ground up to do a similar thing as far as I can see, and built an adapter for testing by VK1EA.


My redesign uses different pins to the original to better cater for ISCP and to utilise weak pullup as much as feasible. IN1 is pin3 (GP4), IN2 is pin4 (GP3), TX is pin5 (GP2). IN1 OR /IN2 causes the adapter to send the configuration command. The output (TX) is open collector.



Above, a view of the adapter from chip side encapsulated in heatshrink and a patch of double sided adhesive foam to fix it in the ATU. Pin3 is wired to ground, Pin4 (IN2) is green, TX is yellow, ground is black and VDD (5V) is red. The TX pin is wired to pin 6 of the opto isolatorC next to the input terminal block TB1 on the ATU. (It may be possible to cut a track and insert the module after the opto isolator. Continue reading Command adapter for JRC NFG-170 NFG-230 ATU

Demonstration video of Cadweld Oneshot Plus ground rod connection

I showed in Mast ground rework the use of a Cadweld Oneshot Plus thermite weld of the ground conductor to the ground rod.

Responding to reader interest, I have made a little video demonstrating the process.


Above is a pic of the demonstration piece with crucible and slag broken away. Continue reading Demonstration video of Cadweld Oneshot Plus ground rod connection

AD9850 / AD9851 initialisation using PllLdr

A note on using PllLdr with AD9850/51 DDS chips.

PllLdr is a generic microcontroller to load a PLL chip’s configuration registers using SPI. SPI is used by many PLL and DDS chips, data format and content varies from chip to chip.


The AD9850 powers up in parallel load mode, and AD gives advice on how to get it into serial load mode (as you would use with PllLdr). Continue reading AD9850 / AD9851 initialisation using PllLdr

ADF4351 / PllLdr checkout

PllLdr is a generic microcontroller to load a PLL chip’s configuration registers using SPI. SPI is used by many PLL and DDS chips, data format and content varies from chip to chip.

This article documents checkout on an ADF4351 PLL chip. The ADF4351 is a wideband INT-N / FRAC-N synthesiser with integrated VCO, output covers 36-4400MHz (continuous).

The test was made on an inexpensive module purchased on eBay for about A$33 posted.


Above is the test frame. At the left is a PllLdr prototype running on 5V, then a 4 channel 5V/3.3V  level converter, the ADF4351 module and at the right a power supply board. The level converter is not needed if the PllLdr chip was run on 3.3V, it was used to test a ‘worst case’ scenario.


Above, a close up of the board.


As can be seen, the connectors are not designed for the 0.8mm PCB used, and the right hand connector has not been connected to the track. Chinese ‘quality’.

The onboard 25MHz crystal oscillator was used as the reference, but a 10MHz reference from a GPSDO could be used for high accuracy. Continue reading ADF4351 / PllLdr checkout

Effective RF resistance of a braided solenoid – Gilbert’s coil measurements

(Gilbert 1996) gave a set of measurements of impedance of several inductors wound as a single layer close spaced solenoid of RG-213 coaxial cable.

Of particular interest is the measurements of the 6t solenoid as there are several measurements well below the self resonant frequency of the inductor.

Key geometry details used in this analysis are:

  • cable OD 10.287mm;
  • conductor OD 8mm;
  • mean solenoid diameter 117.4mm (ASTM D-2729 pipe + RG-213);
  • cable length 2.213m; and
  • solenoid length 6*10.287mm.

clip-218Above is a plot of Gibert’s measurements from 1 to 5MHz, and curve fits.
Continue reading Effective RF resistance of a braided solenoid – Gilbert’s coil measurements

Toshiba alkaline AA leakage problems

I have used Toshiba alkaline cells in several sizes for many years (decades) and had not encountered one leaked cell… however in the last few months I have found 8 AA cells that have leaked in different devices.

The leakage has always had the same failure.

toshibaaa03Above is a view of the -ve end of the battery, ground through to expose the inner structure.

The failed batteries have leaked corrosive electrolyte, and they have all split around the circumference of the battery in the region indicated by the red arrow above. The split is common half way or more around the cell, the green seal and remnant of the rolled over case is  there, split away from the main case and covered in corrosive electrolyte residual.

This is not a failure of the green seal material, but rather the case fails.

It fails either due to internal corrosion, os weakness of the forming process. It is not clear that this area should be exposed to electrolyte anyway, so the corrosion might result from some other internal failure that releases electrolyte.

Enough reason to remove them from all devices and NEVER use these cells again.

Mast ground rework

When I moved here about eight years ago, I quickly installed a small mast and associated ground system for the station. The grounding of the mast itself for lightning protection was a temporary solution, and less temporary than planned. This article documents the rework.

GroundRod01Above is the temporary solution. A 2.4m copper clad ground rod was driven into the clay, and a couple of short 25mm^2 tails connected to the mast tube. The long term solution was to be tidier and allow the mower / brushcutter to be used to trim grass without fouling the earth rod or cables.

The plan is to cut to bent top of the earth rod, drive it below ground level, and make a new tail of 35mm^2 (#2) cable and Cadweld it to the ground rod. Continue reading Mast ground rework

MFJ-993B on my G5RV with tuned feeder

This article is an analysis of why my recently acquired MFJ-993B will not match my multiband antenna system on most bands above 20m. The MFJ-993B replaces an Ameritron ATR-30 which was capable of matching the antenna system on all HF amateur bands.

A detailed analysis is performed 18.15MHz on the first problem band.


The antenna system uses a tune feeder configuration.


The alternative tuned feeder arrangement described at (Varney 1958).

In this case, the open wire line is 9m of home made 450Ω line (2mm copper wires spaced 50mm air insulated), a 1:1 current balun and 0.5m of RG400 tail to the ATU.

A 470K 1W metal film resistor and a 2095-100 gas discharge tube in parallel are connected in parallel with the ATU antenna terminals to reduced static build up and modest transient protection.

Impedance was measured looking with a Rigexpert AA-600 into the cable end that plugs onto the ATU, at 18.15MHz is is 4.7-j69.5Ω.
Continue reading MFJ-993B on my G5RV with tuned feeder

Exploiting your antenna analyser #25

Find coax cable velocity factor using an antenna analyser without using SOL calibration

A common task is to measure the velocity factor of a sample of coaxial transmission line using an instrument without using SOL calibration.

Whilst this seems a trivial task with a modern antenna analyser, it seems to challenge many hams.

We will use a little test fixture that I made for measuring small components, and for which I have made test loads for SOL calibration. We will find the frequency where reactance passes through zero at the first parallel resonance of an O/C stub section, this is at a length of approximately λ/2 (a good approximation for low loss coaxial cables above about 10MHz).

We will use a little test fixture that I made for measuring small components, and for which I have made test loads for SOL calibration.

The text fixture used for this demonstration is constructed on a SMA(M) PCB connector using some machined pin connector strip and N(M)-SMA(F) adapters to connect to the instrument.


Above is a pic of the test fixture with adapters (in this case on a AA-600). Continue reading Exploiting your antenna analyser #25