Posts Tagged ‘high voltage’
Amateur radio has a long history, going all the way back to wireless experiments in the late 1800s. However the study of electricity has its roots in the observation of natural phenomena and stretches back much further.
I ran across this excellent three part documentary detailing the story of the discovery of electricity. The presenter is Jim Al-Khalili, currently Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey. He not only knows his stuff, he is also an interesting and engaging speaker.
The documentary runs for three hours but is worth your time if you are interested in the story of electricity and the people behind its discovery and history. I hope you find it as enjoyable as I did.
I’ve noticed a few spirited discussions regarding modifying computer power supplies for use with Amateur Radio equipment. On the surface it seems as though they supply the perfect solution: Inexpensive, high current, regulated 12V DC supplies for a fraction of the cost of specialized amateur equipment. Is it really is as straight forward as lopping off a molex connector and replacing it with an Anderson Powerpole?
By design PC power supplies are designed to output a fairly well regulated 3.3V & 5V to the PC motherboard and 12V to the motherboard, fans and hard-drive motors. Modern units are typically rated anywhere from 75W to 1200W which should be a measurement of the output power available from all the 3.3, 5 and 12 volts. Since this isn’t a lab grade power supply you can expect marketing hyperbole has perhaps inflated the power output figures.
Back when my job was to build PCs I had an issue with a server not being able to start its complete complement of disk drives. When I opened the case I found a 300W desktop supply board had been used in place of the 800W board … sometimes you don’t even get what you pay for!
Before you convert your first PC power supply there are two issues that may, or may not, cause a problem depending on your unit.
The first is load regulation or the ability of the power supply to maintain its rated voltage under load. If the output voltage drops too far your rig will shutdown, distort or fail to provide its rated output power.
The second issue is due to the high frequency switching circuits used in switch mode supplies. Depending on the individual power supply there can be adequate to no filtering to prevent radio frequency interference being broadcast to your receiver. Toroids on the input and output lines can help to reduce interference.
Because of construction differences between models and even between batch numbers for the same model you can never be certain how the power supply you purchase, or recycle, will perform. For the most part people’s experiences have been positive but I have heard of power supplies that were unusable because of RF interference or such poor load regulation that the 12V rail dropped to 11V under load.
Without a motherboard presenting a load and supplying the power-on signal there are a few changes that need to be made to the power supply. Modern power supplies will not enable the 12V output unless the power-on wire is grounded and a load should be placed on the 5V line to help with regulation. Additionally there is usually an adjustment that can be used to raise the voltage above 12V
The following links detail the steps required to convert a PC supply for use with amateur radio equipment. Whether this represents a good investment of your time will depend on your desire to do-it-yourself and the quality of the power supply you begin with. I’ve heard strong opinions either way but I’ll just say that, if luck favors you, you’ll save some money and learn a few new skills in this exercise.
CONVERTING COMPUTER POWER SUPPLIES (Advanced with theory)
I attended the Greater Houston Hamfest and as I walked past the tables of equipment I wondered if interest in vacuum tube equipment was starting to wane. Compared to the last few years the prices of collector quality gear had held steady but parts and restorable gear seemed to be going for less. I’d like to know your thoughts if you’ve noticed trends one way or the other.
I was happy to pick up a EICO Model 625 tube tester for $15. It is in good condition and appears to work well. The roll of settings for each tube is in good condition and a little searching on the internet supplied settings for older tubes like the number 78 in the picture below.
|EICO Model 625 Tube Tester with a number 78 tube
The EICO 625 is not a top of the line tester but it does basic tests and will let you know if a tube is functioning and an idea of the life left in it. It was sold in kit form for $34.95 in 1958 which is roughly equivalent to $274 in 2012.
|Inside the EICO 625 from diyaudioprojects.com
The EICO 625 is fairly unique in having its own 6H6 diode tube to rectify the 30V filament voltage. It provides DC for the neon short-indicator bulb. If the tube is suspected of having a short then there is a fairly comprehensive series of tests than can be administered to isolate shorted elements.
|EICO Model 625 circuit diagram
Here is the complete TUBE TEST DATA 1/1/78 for the EICO Model 625 Tube Tester
Well, I finally have had time to sit down and put together part three of the DIY Magnetic Loop Antenna, sorry it has taken so long!
This post will cover building and coupling the loop to your transceiver. After reading through posts one and two you should have a good idea of the parts you’ll use and the physical dimensions of the main loop.
Most magnetic loops have the capacitor at the top of the main loop and the gamma match or matching loop at the bottom, this arrangement avoids running the feed-line through the center of the antenna.
You can assemble the main loop from continuous copper tube or from eight straight sections and 45 degree joiners. Make sure you have a blow torch or propane torch to solder the joints as you’ll need more heat than a soldering iron can supply. Whichever way you decide to build the main loop make sure that all joints are soldered or clamped as securely as possible, you want the lowest resistance possible to avoid your output power turning into heat. Other materials can be used for the main loop such as aluminium or low loss coax but copper pipe is easy to work, has low resistivity and available from just about every hardware store.
To construct the frame of the antenna you can use PVC pipe. It is a cheap and relatively sturdy building material and is available in a range of thicknesses, just about any hardware store will stock a wide selection of fittings. It insulates well and can be glued once you are sure your project is in its final form.
Once the main loop is constructed you’ll need to connect your capacitor to the two ends of the pipe at the top of the loop. Depending on the capacitor you may want to solder tags to the ends of the loop so they will be easier to attach. Copper pipe is a great conductor of heat and takes a lot to heat up and solder while it is not advisable to apply the same amount of heat to your capacitor.
It is also a good idea to attach the capacitor to a solid support so that the connections are not under strain.
The main loop and the capacitor forms the resonant circuit of the magnetic loop antenna.
To couple the main loop to your transceiver and match the expected 50 Ohms impedance you can use one of two methods. Probably the easiest is to use is a loop of insulated wire 1/5 the circumference of the main loop. The smaller loop is placed at the bottom of the main loop and can be shifted around to provide the best match. If you have an antenna analyzer you’ll be able to set it to the desired frequency, tune the variable capacitor for resonance and then move the small matching loop around till you have achieved close to 1:1 SWR. If you don’t have an antenna analyzer you can tune the capacitor for the greatest received noise and then on low power tweak the capacitor and move the coupling loop around for best SWR. Do NOT touch the loop while it is transmitting, use a wood or plastic rod to make adjustments as there are high voltages and intense RF fields near the loop.
An alternative to the coupling loop is the gamma match. The shield of the coax feed cable is connected to the base of the main loop while the inner conductor is connected to a point approximately 1/5 of the circumference around the loop. Its a good idea to use stiff wire (large gauge) for the gamma match as it can be critical of the position and orientation and once you have it in the right position you won’t want to move it again.
It would be preferable to have the ability to remotely tune the loop. A motor with a reduction gear could be used to move the variable capacitor but because the point of resonance is very narrow there should be a way of slowing the motor down. A simple control circuit using variable pulse width modulation could be used to slow the motor down while still retaining enough torque to move the capacitor. Whatever method is used to move the capacitor it should be well insulated from the other components of the antenna. Several thousand volts are generated on the MLA and care should be taken to ensure they don’t find their way onto control leads and back into the shack. Control leads should also be wrapped around toriod inductors as they leave the near field of the antenna to reduce the possibility of RF travelling along them.
With a SWR bridge and microcontroller you could build a fully automatic tuner that swept through the range of the tuning capacitor when the SWR rose above a defined limit indicating that the transmit frequency had changed.
With a little creativity and knowledge you could have an impressive MLA the equal of multi-thousand dollar military style units.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas for constructing your own loop antenna. Regardless of if you go top-of-the-line and buy a vacuum variable or build for economy and QRP you’ll have a compact, useful and unique antenna.
Part 1 of the DIY Magnetic Loop Antenna covered mostly theory and materials so now its time to move on to designing the magnetic loop antenna (MLA).
If you have priced a commercially made MLA you’ll see prices start at $400 and keep going up, and up. If they cost so much you would think they must be difficult to build or use expensive parts, right? Well, it is certainly possible to spend more and get a higher quality MLA but a low cost MLA will still work very well.
For the purposes of this article we’ll assume that you want to build a loop to cover the 20-10M bands. I’ll run through the calculations required to build the MLA.
The required information for the MLA calculator is:
- Length of the loop
- The conductor diameter
- Frequency/s of operation
- Input power to the antenna
- We don’t really know the best length of the loop at the moment so I’ll pick 9 feet circumference as a starting point (It’ll still fit in the trunk of my car)
- Since we seem to be having better luck with sunspots now I’d like to try 10M so we’ll start with 29 Mhz as the highest frequency we’ll use.
- I have some copper pipe left over from an ice-maker install, it is 1/4 (0.25) inch in diameter.
- Input power to the loop will be 100W.
Do you live in a neighborhood with a restrictive antenna policy and despair of having a useful HF antenna?
Can you solder or know someone who can?
A magnetic loop antenna may be the answer and they are not as difficult to build as you might think. Like getting on the air for the first time or taking your license exam there is a certain amount of uncertainty when you first approach magnetic loop antennas, there are a few new ideas to grasp. However, thanks to other hams like Steve AA5TB there are tried and tested designs, calculators & building methods that are known to work and that you can follow.
At the heart of every radio and MLA (Magnetic Loop Antenna) is the resonant circuit. The combination of an inductor (a wire has inductance, but a coil of wire has more) and a capacitor (two conductors separated by an insulator) in a circuit will resonate or ‘ring’ at a certain frequency. Sound vibrations at a certain frequency can cause a piano string to vibrate in sympathy and a vibration of the correct radio frequency will cause a resonant circuit to electrically vibrate in sympathy.
Since there is no such thing as a free lunch, the sacrifice you make with a MLA is that it needs to be re-tuned whenever you change frequency on your transceiver. The frequency range over which it is resonant is very small, typically only a few hundred kilohertz at the most.
The materials you can get your hands on is going to decide the capabilities of your MLA. Ideally you’ll have a loop made from a conductor with very low resistance (usually copper) and a capacitor that can handle high voltages. A variable capacitor is required if you want to use your antenna on multiple frequencies but you can use or make a fixed capacitor if you operate on one frequency, for Eg PSK31.
The four pieces of information required are:
- What frequency or frequencies do you wish to transmit on?
- How large do you want the loop to be (It should have a circumference less than 10% of the design frequency wavelength, both calculators help you figure this out)
- The diameter of your conductor (Three quarter inch (0.75 inch) copper pipe is a good start)
- How much power you want to use (The voltage across the capacitor is proportional to the input power to the MLA)