Exploiting your antenna analyser #24

Find coax cable velocity factor using an antenna analyser with SOL calibration

A common task is to measure the velocity factor of a sample of coaxial transmission line using an instrument that supports SOL calibration, an AIMuhf in this example.

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

There are a thousand recipes, I am going to demonstrate just one that suits the instrument and application.

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).

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 #24

NEC GM, GX tutorial

NEC requires the user to define a model structure as a set of geometry elements. It includes two powerful cards that make definition of the structure simpler and more reliable, they are the GM card for coordinate transformation and GX card for reflecting a structure in coordinate planes.

This tutorial demonstrates the use of these cards to define what might appear to be a fairly complex hypothetical NVIS antenna scenario quite simply, and more importantly, reliably. I say reliably because the logical definition of the model based on similar elements already defined, the more confident the developer can be that they are indeed similarly defined,  the differences are explicit, and that they are properly connected.

Screenshot - 03_09_16 , 10_22_56Above is a model to explore coupling from a tx antenna to a nearby rx antenna, The scenario contains 52 wire elements which one could naively define using 52 GW cards.

Instead, we will define it with far fewer GW cards and use model symmetry, rotation and translation to define the model. Continue reading NEC GM, GX tutorial

Post mortem review of a 144MHz combiner / splitter

This article is a post mortem review of a 144MHz splitter combiner that was made using RG6 coax. It is post mortem (ie post death) because the combiner was stored outdoors without checking that the connectors were protected from weather.


The combiner was used successfully for over 10 years on a 144MHz four over four antenna system (above) without any maintenance problems.


Above is a close up of the Tee point of the network. The coax cables are protected by HDPE sleeving to reduce the chance of damage at the hands of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, in the event there was no damage.
Continue reading Post mortem review of a 144MHz combiner / splitter

Transmitter pulse generator for SSB RF PA adjustment

This article describes a pulse generator for adjustment of SSB RF power amplifiers.

The need

Valve RF power amplifiers usually use high voltage power supplies with poor regulation, and typically the voltage may sag by 10% or more on full power CW output, whilst on SSB telephony the voltage may sag a quarter of that.

The effect is that finding PA loading conditions for maximum power output on a key down CW signal optimises the loading for conditions that are significantly different to SSB telephony and not only is the maximum power output likely to be lower for key down CW, but it will be lower when used for SSB telephony than if it were adjusted using a drive that created full output power without sagging the power supply more than speech would.

Additionally, RF PAs intended for the amateur market cannot sustain key down CW for very long before overheating and sustaining damage forcing very short adjustment sessions. Adjustment at continuous maximum power puts great demands on a dummy load if one is being used.

So, to solve these problems, there are three objective:

  • create a drive / load scenario that is similar to SSB telephony conditions;
  • operate at reduced duty cycle to reduce internal heating of valves and power supply;
  • reduce the average dissipation requirements of a dummy load.

Continue reading Transmitter pulse generator for SSB RF PA adjustment

A certain formula for antenna system Q

A correspondent questioned the writings of an online expert who opined whilst discussing loaded monopole antennas:

… there is a formula circulating the Internet which states that antenna Q is equal to 360 times the frequency in MHz, divided by the 2:1 VSWR bandwidth in kHz. One has to assume they mean antenna system Q, but that’s not a given. While this formula might give you a comparison between antenna A and antenna B (all else being equal), the actual Q of the antenna (system or otherwise) requires a textbook-full of formulas, and a lot more information than just the 2:1 bandwidth! Fact is, this formula is no more specific than the number of DX contacts a specific antenna garnered.

The formula given is:

Q=360*fc/B(VSWR=2) where fc is the centre frequency.
Continue reading A certain formula for antenna system Q

Tuning combiner lines

A common method of combining two 50Ω antennas to a single 50Ω feed is using a quarter wave transformer using 75Ω line from the common feed point to each antenna.

A recent posting to one of the ham fora raises the posters problems with making this really simple feed system work.

Screenshot - 25_08_16 , 07_25_16

Above is his measured input characteristic with good 50Ω loads on each leg. Reading a hundred posts, it seems that he attributes this to legs of 0.167m length of RG11. The problem is that RG11 as most of us know it has a solid PE dielectric giving it a vf=0.66 and that 0.167m is 63° at 207MHz… so why the response above. Continue reading Tuning combiner lines

Treatment of the -ve DC return path for transceivers in mobile installations

A correspondent wrote with questions on the -ve return connection in a mobile installation of a typical ham transceiver. He was confused by the advice on an online expert who opined…

If instead, you decide to connect the negative lead to the nearest chassis ground point (seat support, trunk brace, etc.), there will be a difference in resistance between any of these points and the battery’s chassis ground. A differential of three to five ohms is not uncommon. Whether this causes a ground loop to occur is moot, the resulting voltage drop under load is not.

A resistance of 3-5Ω from any part of a metal car body to the terminal clamped to the battery -ve terminal is way above anything I have observed, and would seem to be sign of a fault rather than not uncommon. Continue reading Treatment of the -ve DC return path for transceivers in mobile installations

Fan controlled by humidity sensor – pre implementation data gathering

This article documents measurements of temperature and relative humidity (RH) over 10 days prior to implementing the fan solution to provide a baseline for designing the Fan controlled by humidity sensor.

A RC-4HC datalogger was used to collect temperature and RH measurements over 10 days which included a range of late winter weather, some rain, some fine clear days. The logger was located at 1.5m above floor level in the shed in a relatively clear spot in the middle of the area..

Screenshot - 22_08_16 , 15_53_17

Above is a chart of temperature and RH. The daily RH peaks are typically between 08:00 and 09:30, and pretty much coincide with the minimum observed temperature. There is clearly a lag from outside temperature which would tend to be minimum a few hours earlier, and a lower minimum (there were plenty of frosty days in the sample set). Continue reading Fan controlled by humidity sensor – pre implementation data gathering

Antenna analysers – the basics – QST Aug 2016

I was browsing Joe Hallas’ award winning article Antenna analysers – the basics in Aug 2016 QST when I saw some welcome news.

Screenshot - 12_08_16 , 17_32_17

In the notes to this graphic, Joe tells us that you can display any “individual plot” in Antscope. I would dearly like to NOT display the |Z| curve which is apparently there as a concession to the ham audience that doesn’t understand the complex nature of Z and the need to see it in two dimensions. Continue reading Antenna analysers – the basics – QST Aug 2016

RC electric drive noise

The website Mini Quad Test Bench by Ryan Harrell contains a growing set of test results for motors and ESCs.

In respect of ESCs, it appears to use BLHeli unless the ESC is incompatible in which case the proprietary firmware is used.

The configurations are targeted mainly at the mini quad racer part of the market, and the requirements for different size copters and different applications varies significantly.

The site contains an online editable graph facility that allows customisation of the graph.

Screenshot - 14_08_16 , 09_33_03

Above is a graph of current vs time for a uniform ramp servo input, and I have disabled most of the ESC types for clarity, selecting just the first two on the list and one which I use (F-30A). Continue reading RC electric drive noise