QQQ

AN EXPERIMENTAL "Q" METER
by Lloyd Butler VK5BR

QQQ

(Originally published in Amateur Radio, November 1988) (Revised April 2004) The article describes Q factor, methods of measuring Q factor, inductance and capacity using a Q meter and the design of an experimental Q meter unit.
INTRODUCTION For many years, the Q meter has been an essential piece of equipment for laboratories engaged in the testing of radio frequency circuits. In modem laboratories, the Q meter has been largely replaced by more exotic (and more expensive) impedance measuring devices and today, it is difficult to find a manufacturer who still makes a Q meter. For the radio amateur, the Q meter is still a very useful piece of test equipment and the writer has given some thought to how a simple Q meter could be made for the radio shack. For those who are unfamiliar with this type of instrument, a few introductory notes on the definition of Q and the measurement of Q, are included. WHAT IS Q AND NOW IS IT MEASURED? The Q factor or quality factor of an inductance is commonly expressed as the ratio of its series reactance to its series resistance. We can also express the Q factor of a capacitance as the ratio of its series reactance to its series resistance although capacitors are generally specified by the D or dissipation factor which is the reciprocal of Q. A tuned circuit, at resonance, is considered to have a Q factor. In this case, Q is equal to the ratio of either the inductive reactance, or the capacitive reactance, to the total series loss resistance in the tuned circuit. The greater the loss resistance and the lower the Q, the greater the power lost on each cycle of oscillation in the tuned circuit and hence the greater the power needed to maintain oscillation. Another way to derive Q is as follows: Q = fo/Δf where fo is the resonant frequency and Δf is the 3 dB bandwidth (See Footnote on how this is done.) Sometimes we talk of loaded Q (such as in transmitter tank circuits) and, in this case, resistance for calculation of Q is the unloaded tuned circuit series resistance plus the additional loss resistance reflected in series into the circuit from its coupled load.

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