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Hams Tune Up Guide - compiled by ZS1JHG
Index Setting Resonance Counterpoise Wires How they work PSK with your FT 450,897.857 Measuring Beads and ferrite toroids Feedline Fault Location Identifying Ferrite Components Maximizing Efficiency in HF Mobile Antennas My Feedline Tunes My Antenna Station Grounding Resonate First, Match Second The Merits of Open Wire lines End/Fin
Page 2 4 ( bottom of) 6 (middle of) 6 (bottom of) 8 9 11 17 19 23 27 35
A Typical or is it an Atypical Antenna
I have published several articles here on eham.net primarily covering HF mobile antennas and noise abatement (Article numbers: 4407, 4424, 4425, 4623, and 5299). The articles generated a fair amount of threads and a ton of e-mails. Based on the number of e-mails I received about the UNUN matching transformer, there seems to be a misunderstanding about how to properly set the resonance point of an antenna. This article will address this topic. For those who understand complex impedances and how to calculate, measure, and adjust them, this article isn't for you. In fact, I have purposely left out all the esoteric formulas and charts (including Smith® Charts), in leau of basic Ohm's law and SWR charts. Anyone wishing more complex theory should enlist the aid of the ARRL Handbook or Antenna Book. That said, the reader must understand some basic theory and part of that is knowing the difference between resistance, reactance, and impedance. Resistance is the opposition to current by conversion into another form of energy, typically heat. It is measured in ohms and in the treatise will be referred to as R. Reactance is the opposition of alternating current by storage in a magnetic field by an inductor (L) or in an electrical field by a capacitor (C). It is measured in ohms and in this treatise will be referred to as X and expressed as +j (inductance) and -j (capacitance). Please note the sign of these expressions. Impedance is the complex combination of resistance and reactance. It is measured in ohms and in this treatise is referred to a Z and expressed as R+j or R-j. We need to know a few basics about short (less than 1/4 wave) mobile antennas too. Below is a schematic diagram of a short mobile antenna. The various components are as follows.
XA represents the capacitive reactance of any short vertical mobile antenna. Depending on the resonant frequency and length of the antenna, this reactance is between -j100 to -j7,000 ohms. XL represents the inductive reactance necessary to cancel out the capacitive reactance and bring our antenna into resonance. In our discussion this is the ubiquitous loading coil which can take many forms.
The three resistance values, RL, RG, and RR, represent the losses in the antenna. RL is the coil losses which should be kept as low as possible by using a high Q inductor. RG is the ground loss which is unavoidable, but can be minimized (see previous articles). RR is the radiation loss. This desirable loss needs to be kept as high as possible while minimizing the other losses particularly RL. CS represents the stray coupling losses and was covered in article 5299. It should be kept as low as possible as it directly effects antenna efficiency and is actually the worst of the losses. It is exacerbated by poor mounting positions and techniques. Now comes the hard part. No matter what brand of HF antenna you use or how you mount it, it will always have some reactance even at its resonant point. And it will never be exactly 50 ohms and a perfect 1:1 SWR match. Even a dummy load has some reactance, so don't believe the hype! Sans any matching device or scheme, a short HF mobile antenna will exhibit an input impedance of between 10 and 36 at resonance. This impedance (Z) consists of a combination of all of the values shown in the antenna schematic above. In all fairness, at resonance the Z is mostly resistive (R) with a few ohms of reactance (Â± j). So, at resonance our SWR will measure between 5:1 and 1.4:1 So how is it when you use an SWR bridge to resonate your antenna the SWR is less than 1.4:1? Well I did say this was the hard part didn't I? Let’s look at the SWR chart below. The red line represents the reactive component and the blue line the SWR.
To clarify the point, let's assume a few parameters of a typical 40 meter HF mobile antenna.(One might say atypical hence the subtitle of this treatise.) It will have an input Z of 19 ohms. This would represent an SWR of 2.6:1 when fed from a 50 ohms source. But if we make the antenna too long with respect to our desired resonant point it becomes inductively reactive. To a point, when this reactance is added to the input Z (remember, inductive reactance has a + sign) and our SWR bridge is fooled into seeing a Z closer to 50 ohms. Assume for a moment this was +j20,
then our SWR would appear to be 1.3:1. This is because an SWR bridge only measures the voltage component of the complex impedance present at this off-resonant point. In all fairness, the process is much more complex in the real world than I make it sound here. Remember, I used the word atypical which means aberrant, abnormal, artificial, contrived, and a few more negative things. Which just means nothing is typical when it comes to HF mobile antennas. Nowadays thanks to MFJ (and a few other companies) we amateurs have an inexpensive way of checking impedances fairly accurately. Using the MFJ 259B, not only can we measure the resonant point (least reactance) we can also measure the complex SWR, not just the voltage SWR of the typical (there's that word again) SWR bridge. This allows us to select the best tap on our aforementioned UNUN, or select the best shunt (L or C) matching value. And it'll prove to you the effectiveness (or lack of it) of any built-in matching device your antenna might incorporate. Alan Applegate, KØBG
Counterpoise Wires - How they work
The term "counterpoise" has come to mean many things in amateur radio usage and I will steer clear of trying to give any sort of generally accepted technical definition for the term. The function of a true counterpoise differs from that of the wire under discussion, but it matters little what we decide to call it - the wire works the same regardless. Historically, the term "counterpoise" originally was used to describe a system of wires placed near but not on the ground to provide an r-f connection to ground by means of the capacitance between the counterpoise and the actual ground. The counterpoise was not necessarily designed to be resonant but was more intended to provide as much capacitance as could reasonably be obtained. A similar effect accounts for the success of our vehicular HF installations where the capacitance of the vehicle frame and body to ground provides our r-f connection to ground and thus allows our vertical whips to operate with a degree of efficiency. At 10 meters or so, the vehicle body may serve as a groundplane of sorts but clearly at 80 and 40 meters something else is needed for any degree of efficiency. The purpose of the wire that Tom is recommending is not primarily to provide a capacitive connection to the Earth (which it does to a degree) but rather is to place the cabinet, chassis, etc. of the K2 - specifically the GND post on the rear panel - at as near zero r-f potential as possible. Thus, the term "driven ground" is usually applied to a wire connected as described. If the wire is 1/4-wavelength long at the operating frequency, has its far end insulated and is not too close to the ground or metallic structures either of which would serve to detune it - then in the near-field of the radiating portion of the antenna system, the wire has current induced in it. This current sets up a voltage gradient along the wire, with the "far end" having a voltage maximum and the end connected to the radio a near zero voltage level, due to its 1/4-wavelength dimension. Thus, the "driven ground" serves to collect r-f from the "antenna" for the purpose of *driving* the radio "ground" to near zero r-f potential. Because of the current in the wire, it is actually a radiating part of the
overall antenna system and should be treated as such. Even with our 5 watt power levels, substantial voltages can be developed at the open end. Radiation from the driven ground wire is normally not a great problem in most field setups - it probably helps! - but in home stations, some care should be taken in how the wire is placed to minimize r-f pickup in nearby devices. >From a theoretical viewpoint, the actual impedance to "ground" - whatever and wherever that mystical reference point may be - from the KAT2 ground post is probably much much lower with the driven ground than one could obtain by using a ground rod with a wire between it and the K2. An exception might be if one uses a series-tuned resonant circuit in such a lead to minimize the overall impedance. Before rushing out to pound several 8-10 ft ground rods into Mother Earth, be aware that most ground rods are fine for 60-Hz and possibly for lightning abatement, but are essentially worthless for r-f "grounding" purposes. Even if they did manage to maintain a low-impedance connection to "ground", connecting the station equipment to the rods involves conductors with finite and frequently large impedances. Hence the use of the "ground line tuners" such as those sold by MFJ. Incidentally, if you want to build one, the circuit diagram of the MFJ-931 is in ON4UN's "Low-Band DXing" on page 11-22. In over 57 years of amateur radio I have never used a "station ground" other than the safety ground for 60 Hz provided by the power line system. R-f ground requirements for antennas are best resolved at the antenna, not in the shack. 73/72, George W5YR Fairview, TX 30 mi NE of Dallas in Collin county EM13qe Amateur Radio W5YR - the Yellow Rose of Texas
PSK (AFSK) with your FT 450,897.857
On page 74 of the FT450, page 37 of the FT-897 and on page 39 of the FT-897D Operation Manual the connections to and from the computer and the radio are well described. However the two most impotent steps are not mentioned. But first a bit of General information. PSK is an AFSK mode and is done in SSB. That mean the information from the radio to the input of the computer sound card is an audio signal. The information from the sound card to the radio is also and audio signal. These signals are of course encoded for the transfer of letters rather then speech. The same is true for RTTY, SSTV, MFSK and all the other AFSK modes. YAESU has included a special connection to and from the radio via the DATA connector which is a 6 pin MiniDin which supplies the RX output, the TX input and although not needed the PTT signal(s) for all modes of AFSK operation. YAESU placed the RX output of the radio to the sound card on pin 5 and made it a constant level signal that is not changed or affected by the volume control. You can copy PSK or RTTY, SSTV, MFSK and other signals with the volume set to Zero. The Input to the radio from the sound card is on pin 1and is the signal that will modulate the transmitter similar to the Mic input. YAESU added a feature that is not well documented for the FT-450 ,FT-857 and FT-897 called DIGITAL VOX (DIG VOX). The radio already has a VOX Function built in and all YAESU had to do was make it available to the DATA Connector input. This eliminated the need for a PTT control signal from the computer. Menu step 40 is the DIG VOX Sensitivity control and its default is set to Zero. Just enter the Menu and set the value to about 50. The radio will now switch to transmit every time the software goes to transmit.(FT-450 set DIG VOX higher about 85). Now the only thing left to do is to set the level of the TX modulation which is done in Menu step 37 called DIG GAIN. The DIG GAIN default value is 50 which is way too high for PSK operation. Remember you can QSO the world with 10 to 20 Watts of transmit power so set the value to around 5 and check the power out. Adjust it until
you have about 20 watts. This was very good planning on the part of YAESU as the DIG GAIN has no affect on the setting of the MIC Gain so you don't have to do any readjustments to go from one mode to the other. There is only one more thing to do to get to the first QSO. You must to go to the Sound Card control panel and see that everything is set up and working. Because no two computers and sound cards are the same I can't tell you what to do here but you received a little booklet about the sound card when you bought it which will tell you how to get signals in and out of the thing. One last point. It is good engineering to isolate the sound card and computer from the radio. The best way to do this is via two small and inexpensive audio transformers that have a transformation radio of 1:1. 73 Don dj0km / k9sfn Germany
Measuring Beads and ferrite toroids
Nowadays, the Antenna Analyser (Like the MFJ259B) has become almost ubiquitous in the modern ham shack. And believe it or not, you can use one to check those surplus units to make sure they'll do the job. You'll need enough hookup wire, size 22 is ideal, to make 3 passes through the bead plus enough to connect the ends to the analyzer. Set the frequency to 2 MHz, and measure the reactance. If it is mix 31, the reactive value (X) will be approximately 400 to 500 ohms. Pushing the mode button three times will bring up the inductance menu which should show 40 uh or so. Putting mix 43 under same test will require you to increase the turns to 5. The readings will then be approximately the same as mix 31. By the way, the 259B doesn't have enough range to check either mix at much more than 2.5 MHz unless you reduce the number of turns. This is because the 259B has a maximum reactive range of 650 ohms. Either test will exceed this value at approximately 2.5 MHz. As pointed out previously, at some frequency X=R and the Q=1. For either mix this occurs near 40 MHz for a one turn core, and approximately 20 MHz for a two turn core. Attempting to measure the crossover [X=R] point is beyond the range capability of the 259B. For those who wish to get closer to the actual mix specifications, loss tangent charts are available from a variety of sources which precisely list these crossover [X=R] points.
Split beads come in just about every length and diameter you can think of. However, those with snap-on plastic housings generally come in four internal sizes; .25, .375, .5, .75, and 1 inch, although the actual ID may vary slightly from these sizes. Lengths vary too with the larger ID stretching to
1.5 to 2 inches. Although you can buy split beads without the plastic covers, they're inconvenient to attach (or remove) and the difference in cost is not worth the extra effort to attach them. Just as important as knowing where to install them is how to install them, and which ID size to use. Here are a few tips. It really doesn't matter if the bead is tight or loose when snapped over the cable in question. If it's too tight you run the risk of abrading the wire, and this condition should be avoided. Too loose and it won't stay in place, but a well-placed tierap will keep it where it belongs. Where it belongs is also important.
Feedline Fault Location
Identifying Ferrite Components at a Hamfest
Barry Whittemore, WB1EDI, e-mailed me:
“I have many unknown cores that I would like to check out. Do you have a procedure? I have the following equipment available at home…: signal generator; oscilloscope; MFJ 259 antenna analyzer; …. Can it be done with this combo?”
The only time that I remember needing to characterize ferromagnetic cores professionally, I used lab-grade equipment because it was there, and more importantly because I was a kid and had to convince my boss beyond any doubt that these cores, which a big-shot MIT full-professor had developed and was pushing, were no good.. However, to characterize unknown cores for possible use in HF common-mode chokes, I believe that an inexpensive ham “antenna analyzer” is enough. I use an Autek model VA-1 “HF Vector Analyzer” that I bought new for $200. It’s advertised in QST. It was among four “high-end antenna analyzers” reviewed by Joel Hallas, W1ZR, in the May 2005 issue of QST. <http://www.arrl.org/membersonly/ prodrev/pdf/pr0505.pdf>. The Autek VA-1 is the least expensive of them, by far; but it’s about as accurate as the others. Measured values of impedance are good within a few ohms or a few percent of the magnitude of the impedance, in the real or the imaginary part. The VA-1 won’t indicate an impedance of magnitude greater than 1 k ; and its accuracy deteriorates near 1 k and near its upper frequency limit, of 32 MHz. The Autek VA-1 is also the most compact of these instruments, and the most convenient for carrying around a hamfest. It fits in a jacket pocket and is self-contained, powered by an internal 9-V battery. It includes a signal generator (an oscillator that is continuously tunable from slightly below 0.5 MHz to above 32MHz in several overlapping ranges); a digital frequency-counter and 31/2-digit display; a bridge for measuring both the real (resistance, R) and the imaginary (reactance, X) parts of the complex impedance (Z = R + i X) of an unknown two-terminal device; and a “PIC” microprocessor programmed to convert raw measurements and display them as R, X, and |Z| in ohms; the angle of Z in degrees; and several other derived quantities including inductance (L), capacitance (C), SWR in a 50-ohm (or other) system, and cable loss. This instrument, unlike the MFJ-269 and others, determines and displays the sign of X, and the sign of the angle of Z. Thus, it can tell an inductor from a capacitor.
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Unfortunately, this and all similarly compact and inexpensive instruments are vulnerable to RFI because their bridge detectors are untuned. Therefore, they can’t directly measure the impedance of an HF antenna system that’s near an AM broadcast station. However, for measuring a small component like a ferrite core wound with one turn or a few turns of wire, they’re fine. So I replied to Barry:
“Yes. You should be able do it with just the MFJ 259 antenna analyzer.
Common-Mode Chokes Confidential draft for YCCC review, by W1HIS 2006 April 6 Page 24 of 42
“Wind one turn of insulated hookup wire on the unknown core, or a few turns, depending on the size of the core. (See the examples below.) You want the magnitude of the impedance of this winding to be in the range that the analyzer can measure reasonably accurately -- between about 10 and 250 ohms. Keep the leads as short at possible, and keep everything away from conducting surfaces like steel desk tops. “Log all of your measurements as you go. Archive them in your computer. “Measure Z (both the real and the imaginary parts; or, equivalently, the magnitude and the angle) starting at the lowest possible frequency (0.5 MHz for my Autek model VA-1, HF "Vector Analyzer"). At this low frequency, Z should be nearly purely inductive; in other words, its angle should be nearly equal to plus 90 degrees; in other words, the real part of Z should be near zero. “Next, measure Z at double the previous frequency. If the ferrite is nearly lossless at these frequencies, the magnitude of Z will be twice what it was before, and the angle will still be +90 deg. OTOH, if the ferrite is lossy, |Z| will have less than doubled; and the angle will be further below 90 deg. “Keep increasing the frequency and note where the magnitude of Z stops increasing in proportion to frequency, or stops increasing and starts decreasing. (Beyond the latter frequency, the angle of Z may be negative.) “Measure Z all the way to 30 MHz. “What you're after can almost be summed up by just two derived values: (1) for sufficiently low frequencies, the inductance of a winding having a given number of turns; and (2) the Q of this inductor (i.e.,the ratio of its inductive reactance to its equivalent series resistance) at a frequency of interest (e.g., 7 or 14 MHz). A third interesting value, related to these two, is the frequency at which the Q drops to 1. This is the frequency where the angle of the impedance drops to 45 degrees. You probably won't want to use the ferrite muchabove this frequency. “At sufficiently low frequencies where the impedance is nearly purely inductive (and inter-turn capacitance is negligible), the inductance is proportional to the square of the number or turns in the winding. In manufacturer's data sheets, you will see values for „inductance per square turn‟ or „inductance per turn squared.‟ “Match your measurement data with the curves and tabular data in the Fair-Rite Products catalog for parts having the same dimensions. The differences between ferrite „mixes‟ can be dramatic. Of course your
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goal is to determine not the Fair-Rite mix number, but the impedance that a choke will have. Mainly you want the magnitude of this impedance to be great enough. If the choke will be on a transmitting antenna feedline and the magnitude of the choking impedance might not be enough, then you need the resistive (real) part of the impedance to be small, so common-mode current doesn‟t overheat the ferrite.
Maximizing Efficiency in HF Mobile Antennas
L. B. Cebik, W4RNL (sk); "It is a fascinating arena of trying to squeeze the last ounce of available efficiency from largely undersized antennas."
Those of you who subscribe to the ARRL publication QEX, will probably recall the series of articles by Rudy Severns, N6LF. The articles contained a lot of empirical data with respect to vertical antennas, and their requisite ground plane requirements. If you haven't read the articles, you should, as the data is rather enlightening. Copies of the articles may be downloaded from Rudy's web site. These articles were not aimed at the mobile operator, but the data does explain the ramifications of an inadequate ground plane under a vertical antenna. Suffice to say, the lossier the ground plane, the lower the efficiency, and that's exactly what we have in a mobile installation; a very lossy ground plane. I should point out that any vehicle is an inadequate ground plane at HF frequencies. Fact is, the body of the vehicle acts as a capacitance to the surface under the vehicle, which acts as the ground plane, albeit a very lossy one. An important point needs to be made here. The body of the vehicle is a much better conductor of RF, than the surface under the vehicle. When we mount the antenna low, on a trailer hitch mount for example, a goodly portion of the return current is made to flow through the surface under the vehicle which increases ground losses. If we mount the antenna higher, atop the quarter panel say, more current returns through the body, so ground losses are reduced. Even so, ground losses in a mobile installation are much higher than those encountered in a typical base station installation. Adding a lot of insult to mobile mounted verticals, is the typically low Q of the loading coils, and short lengths. Fact is, few amateurs really understand just how inefficient an HF mobile antenna system is. In the worst of cases, efficiencies are less than 1% (80 meters), and in the best of cases, about 80% (10 meters). It seems the only specific attributes which count are low SWR, short length, and ease of mounting. When they're lucky enough to work a few DX stations, then the worth of their choice is confirmed, and any discussion about efficiency is summarily dismissed. The July/August 2009 issue of QEX, contains a follow up article written by Bob Zavel, W7SX, entitled Maximizing Radiation Resistance in Vertical Antennas. Part of the article covers top loading. Top loading is a methodology which increases radiation resistance, hence efficiency, even if the ground plane is substandard; seemingly a ubiquitous vertical antenna shortcoming. This article is also a must read especially if your urban bound! The conclusions at the end of Bob's article are well founded. Of specific importance are the following points. To paraphrase: The radiation resistance (Rr) of a vertical antenna is a function of the physical
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height (overall length), and the current distribution along that linear height; The efficiency of a fixedheight antenna can be optimized by orientating the maximum current point at the half way point (height) of the antenna; Series and parallel losses (ground losses and stray coupling losses respectively) are always present, with series losses the most severe; Lowering of ground (series) losses, and raising radiation resistance will result in higher efficiency, but the latter is easier to accomplish. These conclusions support the thought that reducing ground losses, and maximizing radiation resistance are the two paramount objectives in achieving maximum performance from a base station vertical. Or from an HF mobile antenna! Let's look at the things we can do to maximize efficiency in a HF mobile antenna.
Ground losses dominate the efficiency formula in any vertical installation, but it's of particular importance in a mobile environment. Unlike a base station, we don't have the luxury to add more radials. What's more, the notion that adding ground straps to the mounting hardware will somehow replace, enhance, or rectify the ground losses are anecdotal. It is true there must be a solid connection for the currents to return to the source, but beyond bonding and a proper ground connection for the coax shield, there is little we can do. Digressing for a moment. Whether the encountered losses are serial or parallel, they appear as part of the resistive portion of the input impedance. As such, they cannot be measured qualitatively (broken down into their individual parts), but we certainly can measure them as a whole. All it takes is a relatively inexpensive antenna analyzer. To make things simple, we're combining the serial and parallel resistive losses together, and calling them ground loss. Further, the resistive portion of the input impedance also contains the radiation resistance; the only good loss an antenna has! Here too, we can't separate it out from the other losses encountered. As a result, we have to be careful about making assumptions based solely on changes in the resistive component of the input impedance. This point will become glaringly evident later on. As alluded to above, mounting the antenna higher up on the vehicle will reduce, but not eliminate, ground losses. The problem is, few amateurs are willing to drill holes, make custom brackets, and the other prerequisites necessary for minimizing ground losses. Perhaps if they had a better understanding, they might think differently. Certainly the aforementioned articles are a very good place to start. Here's some additional food for thought. The calculated ground losses for an average vehicle vary from about 2 ohms on 10 meters, to about 10 ohms on 80 meters. However, the real world losses can easily be double this amount. The factors which cause the loss have already been discussed. The only alternative we have, is to move the antenna as high as we can on the vehicle, albeit we have to contend with the localized conditions (low trees, wires, etc.). This said, we also have to keep as much metal mass under the antenna as possible, and we have to keep the antenna close to this mass. That is to say, mounting antennas atop long brackets is counterproductive. The question remains, why is ground loss so important? If you've read the aforementioned articles, you'd already have an idea of the answer. From this author's empirical experience, the noted difference between low mounting (trailer hitch, bumper, etc.), and high mounting (atop a quarter panel, bed rail, etc.) is typically 4 to 5 dB, or about what you would achieve by adding a mobile amplifier. But the truth is, you can't make a pat statement unless you consider all of the variables. In a mobile scenario, any specific calculation has to include the antenna's coil losses (Q), the location of the coil (base, center, etc.), and even the conduciveness of the surface under the vehicle.
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Digressing again. As stated above, ground losses dominate the efficiency formula. However, in some cases coil losses become dominate. A case in point are the various, short and stubby, HF mobile antennas which have become all the rage; their coils have rather low Q ratings. If you design an HF mobile antenna carefully, you can achieve a coil Q averaging about 300 as mounted in (on) the antenna. On 80 meters, a well-designed, center-loaded coil with a Q of 300 will have a resistive loss of about ≈12 ohms. Combine this with an overall length of about 7 feet, and a ground loss of 12 ohms, and the radiation efficiency is about 3%. That's 100 watts in, just 3 watts out! One with a coil Q of 50 will have a resistive loss of ≈72 ohms! Combine this with an overall length of about 7 feet, and a ground loss of 12 ohms, and the radiation efficiency is just .7 %. That's 100 watts in, just 7/10 of a watt out! Incidentally, these figures are straight out of the ARRL Antenna Handbook.
Few amateurs have a grasp of radiation resistance, but Bob Zavel's, W7SX, article does a good job explaining the factors involved. We'll take a more simplistic approach, and say; the effective radiation resistance of an HF mobile antenna is directly related to its overall length. A length, incidentally, which is fixed by practicality in our mobile-in-motive environment. From that standpoint, an overall length of 13 feet is about the maximum, with just 10 feet being the mean average. Based on this maximum length, and remembering our paraphrasing above; The efficiency of a fixedheight antenna can be optimized by orientating the maximum current point at the half way point (height) of the antenna, we're left with moving the current maxima up towards the top of the antenna. One way to do this is to use center loading, rather than base loading, but there is more we can do. In his article, Bob discusses using supporting guys to top load a vertical antenna, which will indeed move the current maxima up. Unfortunately, like adding radials, this isn't a luxury we have in a mobile environment. We do, however, have an alternative, albeit with a few of its own drawbacks. Enter the Cap Hat.
Properly placed, capacitive hats, sometimes referred to as top hats, increase the capacitance of that part of the antenna above the loading coil, thus moving the current maxima point towards the center of the antenna which in turn raises the overall radiation resistance. It does this without other adverse effects save one (wind loading), but only if it is positioned correctly. Digressing once again. Whatever capacitance any given cap hat adds, is the same no matter where it is placed. However, whether or not a cap hat increases the effective length and/or increases the radiation resistance and/or increases overall losses, depends on where (how high above the coil) the cap hat is placed. For example, when placed too close to the loading coil, the capacitance can have a detrimental effect on the coil's Q, and will indeed produce an increase in the measured input impedance. For example, the left photo depicts a cap hat incorrectly installed. The input impedance and bandwidth will indeed increase in this example. However the changes are due to increased coil losses, and not by an increase in radiation resistance (Rr). Therefore, the following assumes the cap hat is mounted at the very top of the antenna, and thus the noted
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increase in input impedance is a positive one, not a negative one. I have owned, and used, four commercially-designed cap hats. Every one of them has had a major drawback, besides the acknowledged wind loading. Universally, they're too small to be truly effective; they're all designed to be mounted too close to the coil; their solid mounting hardware, albeit short, can have a negative effect on an antenna's structural integrity; and some of them are too expensive. I wanted something better.
The Design Stage
Any design concept should have clearly stated objectives. In this case, there were criteria which needed to be satisfied. An increase in the radiation resistance was the prime goal, followed closely by wind loading, weight, and ruggedness. There was one more criterion, and that was the ability to operate from 80 meters, through 17 meters. The reasoning will become apparent as we continue. Every commercially available cap hat, is designed to be supported atop a short, solid shaft. Since the prime goal was to increase radiation resistance as much as possible, the cap hat would have to be mounted at the very top of its support structure. Using a solid shaft as a support would put the antenna in peril should the cap hat hit a low-hanging limb. This meant the support had to be flexible. Hence, the winding loading and physical weight become a critical factor. The incorrectly-installed cap hat above left, consists of just spokes, with no outer rim, while the drawing at right shows one with a rim. Based on empirical testing, cap hats without this peripheral connection, have an effective length approximately 60% of their diameter, depending on the mounting height above the coil. In comparison, a cap hat with the peripheral connection, has an effective length nearly twice the cap hat's diameter. Here too, the maximum effect depends on where (how high above the coil) it is placed. Put another way, adding the peripheral wire increases the cap hat's effectiveness by nearly 4 times, but only when properly mounted. There's a hidden factor at play, and that's the frequency of operation criterion. As mentioned above, a properly implemented cap hat, including its support structure, will increase the effective electrical length of an antenna. If the effective length is too great, the maximum usable frequency criterion (17 meters in this case) won't be met. As anyone can clearly see, it's a mixed bag of tricks, with clear limitations. With the help of Ken Muggli, KØHL (an excellent machinist and draftsman), several different designs were tried, and compared. One design was cone shaped, and another was shaped like a wireframed flying saucer (I live in Roswell, NM after all). Both of these designs were rejected for various reasons, primarily wind loading and weight. After about a dozen different attempts, the design
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shown in the left photo was settled on, due in part to its relatively low wind loading, and overall light weight. The rest of the story is truly serendipitous.
The loops are made from 1/8 inch, 17-7 stainless steel wire, purchased from Small Parts. Their standard length is 60 inches overall. These were inserted into a hub laid out, and machined by Ken, as shown at right.Plans for the hub may be downloaded here. The support structure, a stainless steel whip actually, requires an explanation. There is just one supplier of 102 inch, 17-7 stainless steel whips, no matter where you buy one. They start out life as rolled wire, about .210 inches in diameter. The wire is straightened, and ground into the common size, and shape we all know. Starting at approximately 60 inches from the base, the wire is taper ground so the tip is .100 inches in diameter. A swaged brass 3/8x24 fitting is attached to the bottom, a small chromed, brass tip is added at the top end, and your standard 102 inch whip is born. Strictly by accident (I really hate to admit that), the optimal position along the whip, where the cap hat is mounted, is exactly 60 inches! All of the criteria was met: The maximum usable frequency coverage included 17 meters; Wind loading was slightly more than the whip alone, and the assembly doesn't oscillate in the slip like bare whips tend to do; The total weight of the cap hat, and hub is 10.5 ounces; And it did increase the apparent radiation resistance. Incidentally, during empirical testing, the effect of any whip protruding above the cap hat, was rather small. In view of this, and in effort to keep the height low, it was eliminated. And for the record, the total combined weight (cap hat and shortened whip) is 23 ounces (7 ounces more than the 102 inch whip).
The antenna in question is a Scorpion 680, mounted in the bed of my Honda Ridgeline. Photos are located here. The empirical testing was done by comparing the cap hat design against an MFJ-1956; a 12 foot, telescoping whip. As we know, a full quarter wave vertical antenna (no loading coil), mounted on a vehicle, should have an input impedance, at resonance, of 36 ohms plus whatever ground, capacitive, and resistive losses are present. Using the aforementioned whip, it is possible to resonant the Scorpion 680 on both 20 and 17 meters, with the coil fully collapsed (fully shorted out). So resonated, the unmatched input impedance on 20 meters was 40 ohms, and on 17 meters, 39 ohms. These measured figures, using an MFJ-259B antenna analyzer, are very close to the theoretical input impedance, plus the calculated ground loss using the formulas published in theARRL Antenna Handbook.
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Here's how the (80 through 17 meters) comparisons were done. Once the antenna was at resonance (X=Ø), and the unmatched input impedance measured, the cap hat was removed, the whip installed, and then extended to the exact same resonant point. In all cases, the R value was slightly higher (two to four ohms) with the cap hat installed, when compared with the whip. This is close to the accuracy fuzz of the MFJ-259B. One might then argue that the difference was capacitive loading to the body of the vehicle (extra loss), or a slight increase in radiation resistance (a little gain). Either argument is moot, perhaps. What isn't moot, is the 42 inch reduction in the overall length (height) of the antenna. The height is now under 13.5 feet except for 80 meters, which for most folks is a worthy goal. As stated above, the cap hat, when mounted 60 inches above the fully-collapsed coil, resonates the Scorpion antenna on 17 meters. The unmatched input impedance measures 43 ohms, or 4 ohms better than the equivalent whip. The reader can draw his/her own conclusions. Alan, KØBG www.k0bg.com
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Will we ever be able to dispel the myths? Steve Katz, WB2WIK/6 This is a much beaten-up subject. Hardly a day goes by that on some ham radio board or reflector there isn't a question about “station grounding.” Funny part is, the subject's been so discussed, that anyone asking a question must have not been paying attention for the past several (fill in: days, weeks, months, years). Problem I think the biggest problem is that a lot of commercially manufactured equipment comes complete with a “ground terminal,” usually somewhere on the rear of its chassis. That, along with directions from the equipment manufacturers, implies the equipment owner ought to connect something to it. I view this as an adjunct to the “SWR” dilemma. You know, the one that drives hams crazy believing that for an antenna to work properly it must have a low SWR. Or, sillier still, that an antenna with a low SWR must be working properly. It's funny that before about 1960, few hams owned an SWR measuring instrument of any sort but somehow made DXCC, bounced signals off the moon, worked meteor scatter, aurora and E-skip, and just happily made contacts without having the foggiest idea what their antenna's SWR was. Commercial transmitters didn't have internal SWR bridges, and inexpensive bridges weren't on the market. The famous “Monimatch” circuit hadn't yet been published, so few hams knew how to build an SWR bridge, nor would they bother trying. Hams, and their transmitters, were perfectly content to be working each other, around the world, without this fabulous knowledge.
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Now, back then it was also pretty common for a lot of equipment to not even have a ground terminal. Some of it did, some of it didn't, and it didn't matter much one way or the other. I think the best reason for a ground terminal would have been to help prevent equipment users from killing themselves due to internal short-circuits in equipment that was AC powered, back before 3-prong (and 3-wire) power cords, plugs and outlets became common. Ironically, the most unsafe equipment back in those days was thousands - if not millions - of inexpensive, AC-line powered broadcast radios, including bedside “All American Five” type radios and clock radios, which did not use AC line isolation transformers. To minimize production cost, a lot of these radios directly rectified the AC line and fed a full 120 volts AC to a series string of tube filaments. The string totaled around 120 volts, so no filament transformer was needed. One side of the AC mains was connected directly to the radio chassis (preferably, the “cold” side of the mains!), and to prevent people from touching the chassis, the little radios were installed in plastic enclosures and used plastic knobs over the control shafts. These radios did not have 3-wire power cords. Those were accidents waiting to happen, of course. Untold thousands of people received electrical shocks from these radios, and they were responsible for more than a few fires. Sadly, some probably lost their lives due to such shabby design. And while those radios really indicated an actual need for a chassis (earth, safety) ground, they didn't have any provision for one. But we don't use radios like that any more. Now, we have equipment that uses isolation transformers, and 3-wire power cords plugged into grounded outlets. And a lot of our equipment is powered by low voltage DC, where a shock hazard is literally nonexistent. (You can be hurt by low voltage DC, but not electrocuted. The major source of injuries to people working with low voltage DC is in the form of burns caused by jewelry shorting out the DC power supply's output bus, which can often pump dozens of Amperes through a ring or bracelet before shutting down - if it ever shuts down.) So, why do we ground? Really good question. I guess I'd preface my answer with this simple statement: I've been a licensed ham for 39 years, and continually active. I run legal-limit amplifiers and power output on 160 meters through 10 meters, a kilowatt on 6 and 2 meters, and a couple hundred watts on 135cm and 70cm, and sometimes on 33cm and 23cm, too. I've used dozens of different antenna configurations and have operated from all over the world, but mostly from any of the fifteen home-station hamshacks I've built over the years at the various homes I've owned. And in all that time, I've never once had a “station ground” of any sort. And in all that time, I've never had any problem that grounding would solve. I've operated mobile, marine mobile, maritime mobile and aeronautical mobile and never had a ground on any of these vehicles, either. Especially when operating from an aircraft, that's hard to do. I've also set up dozens of field operations, including Field Day and other contests, without ever owning a ground rod or feeling the need to drive one in, anywhere. Therefore, you can see I'd be a tough one to convince that a “station ground” serves any particular purpose. Not to say it cannot help, in some situations. But in most all those situations, better station engineering would help more. (For clarification: Nowhere in this article will I say it's a bad thing to ground your equipment. I just discuss the counterpoint, that grounding your equipment usually isn't necessary, and if you're spending any time deliberating on this issue, that's time wasted that you could be operating, instead.) RF grounding There's surely such a thing, and it's a good thing. If I ever use a voltage-fed antenna or a random wire, I usually place my antenna tuner outdoors, or at least in an open window, so the entire antenna is literally outside, and then I have a very short and direct path to Mother Earth for the return current. The earth completes the current path from transmitter to antenna and back, and everything is happy. This is a great situation. But you really need to have the tuner laying on the ground, or very
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darned close to it, to accomplish this feat - because a tuner sitting on a desk in the shack is often too far from ground to be effectively grounded. Usually, however, I use current-fed antennas and I match the antennas to their transmission lines (by adjusting the antennas themselves). Most of my lines are coaxial cable, but some are twin lead. If I use coax to feed a balanced antenna, I use a current balun at the antenna feedpoint. If I use twin lead to feed a balanced antenna, I don't need a balun, except perhaps in the shack where I transition to 50 Ohm equipment. In all cases, the lines are cool and quiet and don't seem to bring any RF back “down the pipe” from antenna into the shack. That's the result of matching, choking and cable routing to minimize this problem. That not only works better than grounding the station equipment, but it's also easier to accomplish, usually. It's true that most antenna designs won't provide a good match over more than maybe 2% of the operating frequency. So what? My 80 meter inverted vee is resonant at 3.750 MHz, and its SWR rises to >3:1 at both band edges (upper and lower). Yep, that's about 25% reflected power. Okay, I'll repeat: So what? I use my amplifiers as antenna tuners, can transfer all the power generated to the load just fine, and have zero RFI, RF “feedback,” or other problems. No “hot mikes,” no burns from accessories, no nothing, nada, zip. The secret is station engineering. That is, my antennas are located sufficiently far from my equipment that very little radiates back into places I don't want it to be. And, I do use current baluns in the form of coaxial RF chokes and the like; and, for stubborn cases (especially on the very lower frequency bands, where it's difficult to escape the antenna's near field) I use ferrite isolators on the feedlines, installed just outside the shack wall. I obviously don't need any station “RF ground,” and never made any attempt to have one. Lightning I live in Los Angeles, which has the lowest incidence of lightning strikes of anywhere in the U.S. (fewer than 5 lightning incidents annually on average, and that's recorded in the mountains or high desert, not where I live). But, it doesn't matter. I grew up in New Jersey (70+/year) and have lived in Florida (90+ but it seems like a million), and have operated from many tropical places where lightning is so common that people miss it if it doesn't happen daily. Fact is, grounding your equipment chassis inside your home doesn't do anything to prevent lightning damage, anyway. The last place you want lightning energy to find a path to earth is inside your home. The only place you want lightning energy to find a path to earth is outside your home. Volumes have been written on this subject by people more knowledgeable than I, so I'd refer you to those volumes for more information. The only thing I'll say is, “Equipment (chassis) grounding is not helpful with regard to lightning protection.” And that fact ought to be self-evident to anyone who understands electricity. Safety ground? As I mentioned earlier, there are very valid reasons for “safety” grounding, although I've never once had an equipment fault that would have caused a safety concern whether the equipment was grounded, or not. But, it's possible. And, it's the reason that all construction in the past 30+ years in America (and many other places) used 3-wire grounded outlets throughout. The third (green, ground) wire should be connected to the ground buss in the building's electrical service panel, which should be grounded directly to earth via an 8' ground rod driven into earth at the nearest practical location, usually directly under the panel. It's possible that even this excellent protocol can fail, but it's rare. In the event it does fail, a secondary earth ground for station equipment is a “belt and suspenders” approach that probably can't hurt. I must say, though, that having owned hundreds of pieces of AC-powered electronic equipment in my nearly 40 year ham career, I've never seen a fault occur that would cause an electrical shock during normal operation. So, I do believe this is a pretty rare event. [I might also say that I've received numerous electrical shocks over the years, all of which were purely my fault (like replacing wall outlets and switches without bothering to turn them off first), so I deserved every one of them. And they didn't feel so bad. I can say from experience: 240v hurts much more than 120v. If you're going to shock yourself, go for 120. It's much nicer. In Japan, their mains voltage is only about 100 volts. Now I know why: It hurts even less.]
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Daisy chain grounding This is not recommended at all, but we all have it, in one way or another. Unless your station is set up an inch from your service panel, where a SPG (single point ground) connects every single thing going to and from your home and the impedance between all those items is zero: You, too, have some form of a daisy-chain ground. This is nothing more than having equipment grounded via multiple paths, both serial and parallel, that have varying impedances to earth. It's difficult to avoid. For example: If your antennas are mounted on your tower, and your tower's grounded, your antennas, unless completely isolated from their supporting structure, are grounded, too. Now, you use coaxial cable to connect those antennas to your station tuner, coax switches, amplifiers, rigs, or whatever, and you have a ground path from your antennas far, far away to your station equipment right in front of you, via all the coaxial shields. The DC resistance of all those shields is an unknown, although you could probably calculate or even measure it, if you try. But, if you have four antennas fed with four runs of 100 feet each RG-213/U, you've got four parallel ground paths that probably have a DC resistance less than one Ohm. So, even if you disconnect every intentional earth ground you have in your station, your station equipment is still grounded, anyway. It's just a rather unpredictable ground. If you don't have a tower, but use a mast on the chimney to support your antenna, that mast should be grounded by a wire of substantial diameter directly to a ground rod via the shortest possible path. If you use a doublet antenna that is fully isolated from ground, then its feedline should be grounded via a lightning arrestor or similar device prior to entering your shack. No matter how you cut it, your stuff is grounded (if you have an engineered installation), like it or not. So, the “safety ground” consideration, to prevent electrical shock in the event of internal equipment malfunction, is very likely covered. A 1 Ohm connection to earth will keep a 120v line down to 15v before it trips the 15A circuit breaker or fuse in a conventional household circuit. You won't feel the 15 volts. If your home is equipped with 3-wire grounded outlets and your power supplies or other equipment containing AC-powered circuits have 3-wire power cords, now you have another ground, in parallel with that one. If you added still another chassis ground simply because you wanted to, now you have still another ground, in parallel with the other two. But the circuit is more complex than just parallel branches to earth, and from an AC (RF) perspective it's more complex still. As far as I'm concerned, the only important consideration in all of this is that the transmission line from my antennas to my station equipment should have considerably higher ground impedance than the outdoor ground connection from those same antennas to earth. So, when in doubt about that, I use more coax than needed for the path. This is purely a lightning protection issue, and I live where lightning hasn't been witnessed in sixteen years; but I try to follow that rule, anyway. Still want to connect something to that little terminal? Go ahead, if you want to. But think about why. “Because the terminal is there” isn't a very good reason. The little pictograms in the ham radio equipment owners' manuals (especially the JA stuff) isn't a very good reason, either. My Kenwood owner's manual has the little grounding pictorial, along with a warning to be sure the equipment is grounded, with no explanation at all as to “why.” Interestingly, I have lots of Kenwood audio equipment that doesn't even have a 3-wire power cord, and there's no ground terminal on any of it. Same company, different philosophy. Maybe Kenwood believes that because amateur transceivers are capable of transmitting, they -- unlike receivers -- need a ground? Even more interesting is the fact that the stereo equipment really could benefit from an earth ground. In one case of RFI I had personally, adding a ferrite choke filter to the AC power cord, and a chassis ground to a “surround sound” stereo receiver, completely eliminated the interference.
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Let the flames begin The “must ground” crowd - and there is one, somewhere - will likely disagree with all of this. That's fine. Remember, this whole piece is not about lightning protection in any way; it's about interior station equipment grounding. Since I've never used any in 39 years, I probably never will. I'm not suggesting that equipment grounding is wrong, just that it's usually unnecessary - and if you find it to be necessary, you've got other problems that can be fixed in other ways. WB2WIK/6
Resonate First, Match Second
RESONATE FIRST, MATCH SECOND (OR NOT AT ALL)
Eric Nichols, KL7AJ, WD2XSH/27
Whenever a newcomer comes to me with an antenna problem, the first thing I ask is “Where is it resonant?” More often than not, it's also the LAST question I need to ask.
As we will demonstrate, not only is the reactance of any antenna FAR more dependent on frequency than is the radiation resistance, but that the SWR on a transmission line is FAR more dependent on reactance than it is on resistive mismatching. I encourage you to do the following experiments for yourself, thereby, any argument you may have won't be with me, but with the laws of physics themselves!
Although it's nice that affordable antenna analyzers abound nowadays (and are CERTAINLY more convenient than lugging around a GR-916 impedance bridge!), in the wrong hands they can lead to more confusion than enlightenment.(Editors Note : See my article at www.Scribd.com - “Antenna Analysers How to use them”)
A far more useful instrument for ANY new ham...at least until he has some transmission line theory under his belt...is a grid dip oscillator (GDO).
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I should mention at this point that I run open wire feedlines for all my antennas...I neither know nor care what the SWR is...ever...since my line losses are negligible. But I realize most new hams will be using coax, which, as we will see, can be EXTREMELY lossy under high reactance load conditions. (For open wire feedline users, the classic QST article “My Feedline Tunes My Antenna” by Byron Goodman, is all the information you'll ever need.) ( Editors Note: See Index for this article)
Now, if you happen to have all three instruments: a GDO, an Antenna Analyzer, and an SWR meter, you can have even more confirmation of some important principles I'll describe. One should ALWAYS be able to obtain the same answer by several means.
The input terminals of an antenna present an impedance in two parts, a reactance (preferably zero), and a real part, which ideally consists of mostly RADIATION RESISTANCE. For nearly any practical antenna, the CHANGE in feedpoint resistance from one end of a ham band to the other, is insignificant. For really short mobile whips, where the radiation resistance is insignificant relative to the LOSS resistances, the change in feedpoint resistance is REALLY insignificant across any ham band.
Reactance is a whole `nother story, though. In fact, for all practical purposes, it is the change in REACTANCE alone which accounts for the change in SWR as you move from one end of a ham band to another. We actually have a “double whammy” working against us in this. REACTANCE changes quickly with frequency for most antennas, and SWR changes rapidly with REACTANCE. The latter factor is easily demonstrated with the Smith Chart, but if that is too daunting for you, any transmission line analysis program like TLA and others, confirms this as well.
But, just in case you have a healthy suspicion of computer programs, you might want to test this out for yourself. GREAT! Let's go!
String up a 40 meter dipole at a height where you can reach the feedpoint with a stepladder. Create a SMALL coupling loop at the feedpoint of the antenna. Just a couple of turns of wire, an inch or so in diameter, clipped across the input gap, should do the job. Now insert your GDO pickup coil into the coupling loop you just made, and sweep the oscillator for a dip. It should be very well defined. Note this frequency. (A GDO won't tell you anything about the RESISTIVE part of the impedance, but with some experience, you can get a crude estimate). Now log this resonant frequency.
If you have an antenna analyzer, use it to confirm this resonant frequency. You should get x=0 very close to the frequency you measured with the GDO. If your antenna analyzer has a built-in SWR function, great...let's do another check. First, look at the RESISTIVE part of the impedance. An antenna at about 1/10 wavelength altitude, over average ground, will have a radiation
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resistance of about 70 ohms...pretty close to that of free space, oddly enough. Your mileage may vary. Let's call it 70 ohms. The SWR indicated by your analyzer should be 1.4:1. The SWR should always read the ratio of measured resistance to 50 ohms, whichever is larger. Note! This ONLY works at the precise resonant frequency!
Now, hopefully your resonant frequency is somewhere in the 40 meter band. (If it isn't, find out why!) Now, scoot the frequency up by 100 KHz and take another reading. Your radiation resistance probably went up a couple of ohms. But what about the reactance? You probably have about 20 ohms of reactance now, right? It's changed at least TEN TIMES as fast as the resistance.
Now, let's move up 500 kc from the resonant frequency. Take another reading. Well, now the radiation resistance has gone up by 12 ohms or so. But look at that reactance. It's about 105 ohms, plus or minus some spare change! Yikes! Your SWR is up to around 4.65:1. Well, actually, that's just a SMALL yikes, as we will see later. But it could be improved. Let's insert a small series capacitor at the feedpoint, just enough to get rid of the reactance. We still have a radiation resistance of 82 ohms, but the reactance is now zero. But our SWR is now down to 1.64:1, which is good in just about anyone's book!
How good is “good” when it comes to SWR? The best answer to this is to look at something that's really BAD for comparison. Let's look at a worst-case scenario. Well, I guess it can't be an absolute worst-case scenario, because, we know that no matter how bad something is, some ham somewhere has come up with something worse.
So, instead, let's look at a nearly worst-case scenario that a lot of hams actually have! Let's use our 40 meter dipole on 80 meters! I know lots of hams that do that...in fact, I've done it myself. The fact that I actually made contacts with the abomination simply proves that QRP works!
Anyway...scoot your antenna analyzer down to 3.5 MHZ. Take another reading. The R is 27.9 ohms...not great, but not too horrendous. But look at that reactance! -931 ohms! This gives us a whopping SWR of 627:1! That's a GENUINE yikes!
Just how bad is an SWR of 627:1? To answer that, we need to look at line loss. Let's say you're using 100 feet of garden variety RG-8 coax. Calculation with TLA shows us that we have 13.898 dB line loss, or 95.9% line loss! So, if you're pumping 100 watts into your coax, about 4.1 watts actually reaches the antenna. I'd say that qualifies as officially bad. (These figures can be confirmed by using your trusty SWR meter to measure the power at the INPUT of the line and then at the OUTPUT of the line. You don't NEED an expensive calibrated wattmeter to see this. The RELATIVE forward power of your SWR meter will graphically demonstrate all you need to know!
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But here's the good news. In fact, it's terrific news! Let's add a pair of decent loading coils right at the feedpoint, changing nothing else. This isn't even the best place to put them; we can get even better improvement by placing them farther out. But let's get this antenna up and running FAST. Guess what? By the mere addition of the loading coils (assuming they're the proper value to precisely achieve resonance, our SWR goes down to 1.79:1! The line loss is down to 9.2%! Can't complain about that at all...especially for a half-size antenna. Just by the mere addition of a proper loading coil! Even better news yet...you don't need an expensive antenna analyzer to determine this proper value...all you need is your trusty old GDO to get a 90% improvement in antenna performance! ( Editors Note : A Grid Dip Oscillator still needs to be checked against a frequency counter for accuracy. Recommended look at the VK5 JST antenna analyser kit )
Are we saying that resistance has no role in antenna performance? Certainly not. But amateur radio performance is about majoring on the majors and minoring on the minors. That means fixing what you can fix, and not wringing your hands over what you can't! You can't do much to improve the radiation resistance of an antenna...other than making it bigger. (PLEASE read W8JI's dissertations on radiation and feedpoint resistance!) Sometimes making an antenna bigger is not an option, and even if it is, the improvements are usually incremental. But you can make VAST improvements by fixing the reactance...and it's a lot cheaper, too!
I would like to conclude by reiterating that there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING SACRED ABOUT A SELF-RESONANT ANTENNA. This statement in no way contradicts any of the above discussion. Any method of resonating an antenna will make it resonant (duh!)...either by linear (cutting to length) or lumped elements (coils and capacitors). Remember a 5/8 wave antenna is NOT self-resonant...but it's a better antenna than a wave dipole...with the proper loading. However, if you're using a lossy transmission line, it's crucial that you obtain resonance at the LOAD end of the transmission line. Again, this discussion does not apply to ideal or nearly ideal open wire feeders, where you can perform the resonating ANYWHERE in the system and maintain high efficiency.
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The Merits of Open Wire lines
by Lloyd Butler VK5BR (First published in Amateur Radio, September, 1991)
Introduction In choosing a feeder system for antennas, preference is often give to the use of 50-ohm coaxial cable. This practice is often applied when, in fact, it might be more efficient, or even more convenient, to use balanced open wire lines. This article is devoted to pointing out the advantages of open wire lines and discussing a few particular applications where they might be the preferred choice to feed the antenna. Coaxial Cable Before turning to our open wire line discussion, we should first discuss the merits of coaxial cable, in particular the type with polythene dielectric as generally used in amateur radio. Typical values of characteristic impedance for this type of cable are 50 ohms and 75 ohms, very suitable values to match the radiation resistance of many basic antennas. Because of the concentric form of the two cable conductors, the coaxial cable fields are confined to within the inside of the cable bounded by the outer conductor. As there is little field on the outside of the outer conductor, the cable can be mounted directly on a metal support. Owing to this feature and also the flexible nature of the polythene dielectric, the cable is very suitable for running up the side of a metal tower or mast to the antenna on top. Furthermore, radiation directly from the cable is minimised because of the confined field. From a receiving point of view, the cable forms a transmission line which is shielded from direct signal pickup. This is an advantage if the cable must run through a high level field of localised noise. Attenuation Figure 1, reproduced from the ARRL Antenna Handbook, compares the attenuation of various types of transmission line. Coaxial cable type RG8 is commonly used to feed an antenna on a rigid structure such as a tower. From the curves, RG8 has an attenuation of 0.8dB per 100ft at 14MHz and 1.2dB per 100ft at 29MHz. This is clearly a very satisfactory cable for HF work but, being a 0.4inch diameter cable, it is somewhat bulky to hang in free space from the average amateur wire antenna. For the wire antenna, we might choose a lighter 0.2-inch diameter cable. Suppose we were to feed a dipole antenna set at a height of half a wavelength above the ground. The radiation resistance at this height could be assumed to be 73 ohms and a 75 ohm 0.2inch cable, such as RG59, could be used to match the antenna through a 1:1 balun transformer at the antenna centre. Referring again to the curves, this cable (RG59) has an attenuation of 1.5dB per 100ft at 14MHz and 2dB per 100ft at 28MHz.
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Figure 1. Attenuation of various types of transmission line (reproduced from the ARRL Antenna Handbook).
All the attenuation figures we have quoted assume a standing wave ratio (SWR) of 1:1. We now refer to figure 2 which allows us to derive the attenuation for SWR greater than 1:1. If our SWR is 3:1, we see that the attenuation of the RG59 cable has increased to 2dB/100ft at 14MHz and 2.8dB/100ft at 28MHz, quite an appreciable loss. Instead of using RG8, we could use 300 ohm open wire TV line via a 4:1 impedance ratio balun transformer. This cable is quite light and flexible, and hangs very well from a wire antenna. From figure 1, its attenuation for an SWR of 1:1 is around 0.08dB/100ft at 14MHz and 0.17dB/100ft at 28MHz. We again refer to figure 2 and it becomes clear that, for an SWR of 3:1, attenuation of the open wire line is still only a fraction of a dB/100ft at both frequencies and hence, far more efficient than the coaxial RG59 cable.
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Figure 2. Curves show increased attenuation in a transmission line when the SWR is increased (reproduced from the ARRL Antenna Handbook).
Tuned Feeders The operation of wire antennas multiband is often made a lot easier if the transmission line can be tuned. This of course implies a very high SWR. Suppose we select a value of SWR = 20, the highest value shown on the curves of figure 2. For this SWR, our RG59 coaxial cable has an attenuation of 6dB/100ft at 14MHz and 7.5dB/100ft at 28MHz. This is excessive attenuation and hence the coax cable is hardly suitable for operation in a tuned feeder mode. We now apply the SWR = 20 to the open wire TV cable and we get attenuation figures of around 0.8dB/100ft at 14MHz and 0.4dB/100ft at 28MHz. Quite clearly, open wire line is essential for good power efficiency when using tuned feeders. Some Typical Wire Antennas One of the most popular of multi-band wire antennas is the G5RV. A typical form of this antenna makes use of a 75 ohm twin lead or coaxial cable coupled via a matching stub of 300 ohm ribbon (refer figure 3). Whilst a good SWR is achieved at 14MHz, it is reported to be as high as 6:1 at 7MHz and 21MHz and 4:1 at 28MHz (refer VK3AVO, AR April 1974 and December 1982). The alternative arrangement is to use 83ft of open wire line all the way to the centre of the antenna. Using this type of feed system, the attenuation is negligible for whatever SWR applies and, hence, it is the preferred system.
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Figure 3. The G5RV antenna with 75 ohm transmission line.
Considerable attention has recently been given in "Random Radiators" to various forms of the series fed or "Carolina" Windom antenna. A typical form of this antenna is shown in figure 4. An antenna impedance of around 200 to 300 ohms is assumed and this is coupled via a 4:1 or 6:1 impedance ratio balun transformer at the antenna connecting point. Of course, the balun transformer must be fitted in some sort of weatherproofing housing attached to the antenna in space Would it not he better to feed the antenna with 300 ohm TV open wire line (or similar) and fit the balun transformer in the radio shack? Not only would the transmission line have lower power loss, but a weatherproof fitting for the transformer would no longer be required.
Figure 4. The The Carolina series fed Windom antenna using coaxial transmission line.
End Fed Horizontal Antennas If the radio shack is nearer to one end of the wire antenna than its centre, it is often more convenient to end feed the antenna with a shorter length of feed line. The end of the antenna is a high impedance in the order of thousands of ohms, the actual value being dependent on the wire size and the number of half wavelengths along the wire. One method of matching this impedance to the lower impedance of a balanced transmission line is to tap in the line connection at the appropriate point on a quarter wave matching stub. (See figure 5). This is an efficient feed system but it is limited to single band operation.
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Figure 5. End fed half-wave antenna fed with open wire line and matched using a quarterwave stub.
For multi -band operation of the end fed antenna, the open wire line is fed directly to the antenna end and operated in a tuned mode. The transmitter is interfaced with the line via a tuner with balanced output (refer figure 6). The end fed antenna has some different characteristics to its centre fed counterpart. At a frequency for which the antenna is one half wavelength long, the radiation pattern is similar. However, this is not so at higher multiples of a half wavelength. Take the case of the second harmonic operation in which the wire is one wavelength long. For the centre fed antenna, the two half waves are in phase, but for the end fed antenna, they are out of phase. The centre fed antenna concentrates its field in a bi-directional pattern whereas the end fed antenna has four main lobes giving a more omnidirectional pattern.
Figure 6. End fed (Zepp) antenna for multiband operation uses tuned feeders.
An interesting version of the end fed antenna is the end fed inverted V. Assuming this is cut for a half wavelength on 40 metres, it operates similarly to the centre fed inverted V on that band. On 20 metres, there are two half-wave sections as in the horizontal wire but the fields are around 90 degrees to each other (assuming a 90 degree V). In the horizontal plane, the fields are out of phase, but in the vertical plane, they are in phase and additive. It seems reasonable to assume that, on 20 metres, this antenna operates more like a vertical antenna with two broadside elements and a consequent low angle of radiation. The antenna can also be operated as three half waves on 15 metres and four half waves on 10 metres with even more complex radiation patterns. Such an antenna system has been described by Colin Dickman in "Radio ZS" as the "ZS6U Minishack Special". The articles concerned were also reprinted In QST and Amateur Radio. The end fed inverted V has been used as a multi-band antenna at the writer's home for many years and with considerable success. In this case on 20 metres, the open wire line is matched to the end of the antenna using the quarter wave matching stub. The shorting clip for the stub is just outside the radio shack door and on 40, 15 and 10 metres, the short is removed and the twin open wire line and part of the stub all become the tuned line used on these bands. On 80 metres, the feeder wires are paralleled and the antenna plus feeder and stub become a Marconi antenna operated against ground radials. On this band the radiator is a little over a quarter wave long. Lengths of Tuned Lines Tuned lines can be any length provided the antenna tuning system can cope with the impedance reflected down the line. Taking the example of the end fed antenna, odd multiples of a quarter wave will reflect very low impedance and even multiples very high impedance. Both these extreme conditions might present difficulties for the antenna tuning unit and line lengths which are multiples of a quarter wave should perhaps he avoided.
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Open Wire Line at VHF Most custom built VHF antennas are made to match directly into a 50 ohm coaxial cable and, generally speaking, feeding the antenna via a coaxial cable is the most convenient thing to do. Commonly used types of 50 ohm coaxial cable are RG58 and RG8. On two metres, RG58 has an attenuation factor of 4.5dB/100ft and RG8 has a factor of 3dB/100ft. If the transmission line is long, one might well consider open wire line as an alternative to the coax cable. The 300 ohm TV open wire line has an attenuation factor on two metres of only 0.75dB/100ft. An antenna in common use is the 10 element channel 5A TV Yagi which has been modified for 2m operation. The active element in this antenna is a folded dipole which presents a terminal impedance of around 300 ohms, specifically designed for 300 ohm ribbon cable or 300 ohm open wire line. Here is a case where the 300 ohm line can he run all the way to the antenna from the radio shack with lower loss than using the coaxial cable. At the transmitter end, a 75-300 ohm coaxial balun (as shown in figure 7) can be used to interface with the transmitter. The 75 ohm load to the transmitter might be a little high for the usual 50 ohm output but in practice it can work quite well.
Figure 7. Coaxial cable balun 75 ohm coax to 300 ohm open wire (reproduced from the ARRL Antenna Handbook).
Another antenna which is easily matched to the open wire line is the J antenna, figure 8. A half wave vertical radiator is connected at its lower end to a quarter wave matching stub. The open wire line is simply connected to the stub at an impedance point matching the line impedance. The position of the connecting taps can be set by experiment for minimum SWR on the transmission line.
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Figure 8 The "J" antenna with matching for open wire or other balanced line.
For a horizontal half wave VHF antenna, one might choose to couple from the open wire line via a delta match as shown in figure 9. This is also a common method of coupling to a HF wire dipole, which is operated only on its fundamental frequency.
Figure 9. Delta match for balanced line.
Whilst the open wire TV line provides an ideal low-loss feed system, there is one disadvantage. When it rains, globules of water collect on the bridges which spread the wires and this changes the characteristics of the line. On HF, the water appears to have little effect but, on VHF, the SWR increases quite dramatically. When the rain stops, the water globules can can be shaken from the line with a blow from a broom handle or similar. Once this is done, the SWR returns to normal. Procurement & Construction We have given considerable attention to the 300 ohm open wire TV line. This line or or cable is made up of two insulated 18 SWG single strand conductors spaced one half inch (12.7mm) apart. Insulating spacers are moulded around the conductors at intervals of around 12 to 15 cm along the cable. The cable is light and flexible and ideal to hang in space supported at one end by the wire antenna. In the past, the cable has been available from outlets which handle TV antenna components and installation, but of recent years, the supply has dried up. If anyone has information concerning whether it is still available (perhaps from overseas) we would be interested to be informed. Perhaps procurement could be taken up by one of our electronic component suppliers. Failing supply of a ready made cable, open wire line can be easily constructed. Almost any type of copper wire of fairly heavy gauge (at least 1 mm diameter) will do the job. Single-core wire, rather than stranded wire, makes a more rigid job to keep the two wires parallel. For a given characteristic
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impedance, the wire spacing depends on the wire gauge used. The relationship between wire spacing, wire diameter and characteristic impedance is as follows: Impedance Zo = 276 log (2S/d) ohms where S = Centre to centre distance between conductors and d = Diameter of conductor (Same units as S) With insulating spacers fitted, the actual impedance will be somewhat lower than that calculated from the formula. Spacers, as shown in figure 10, can be made up from any suitable low loss insulating material.
Figure 10. Insulating spacers fitted to open wire line. (reproduced from the ARRL Antenna Handbook).
If the line is to be used in a tuned mode, the characteristic impedance is not really important and the line dimensions can be set to whatever is suitable for construction. The greatest losses in the tuned line occur at current anti-nodes due to RF resistance of the conductors and at voltage anti-nodes due to shunt resistance loss across the spacers. Whilst the TV line produces quite low losses, they can be reduced even further by making a line with a heavier wire gauge and increasing the spacing between the conductors. Fields If the open wire line is perfectly balanced, the fields around the two conductors are equal and opposite and hence radiation from the line is essentially cancelled. However, as the the wires are a finite distance apart, there must be a small differential field created which might be detectable close to the line. If installed close to say a microphone lead within the radio shack, the differential field might be sufficient to cause RF feedback, more so than coaxial cable with its confined field. One way to reduce the differential field is to twist or barrel roll the cable so that over a distance the differential effect is cancelled. As the fields from the open wire line are not confined, the line must be spaced out from any metal structure, such as a steel tower, to prevent the characteristics of the line becoming compromised. This does not prevent the line being used at such an installation but it is usually easier to use low loss coaxial cable which can be clamped directly against the metal sections of the tower. Connecting to the Transmitter Most transceivers are designed for a resistive RF output load of 50 ohms. A 2:1 turns ratio balun transformer can be used to reflect 75 ohms from a 300 ohm balanced line which is properly matched. A transmitter with a valve output stage and adjustable loading control can usually accommodate the 75 ohms. A transmitter with a solid state output stage is likely to be more critical and require a more precise 50 ohm load. For the 300 ohm line, this calls for a 2.45:1 turns ratio transformer, a little more difficult to achieve using the normal multi-filar winding technique on a toroidal core. For tuned open wire lines or those with a high SWR, some form of balanced matching device is needed to interface with the transmitter. At HF, the Z match tuner has proved to be very useful for this purpose. Where a low loss transmission line is used, the main reason for adjusting to give a low SWR facing the transmitter is to present the correct load impedance to the transmitter This particularly
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applies to solid state output stages which are designed to protect themselves and shutdown if not correctly loaded. If the transmission line has low loss, standing waves on the transmission line are of little consequence. Reflected power is not all just lost as some writers have often indicated. When there are standing waves, the feeder line becomes part of a resonant circuit and in a low loss line, most of the reflected power is returned to the circuit. If the SWR is 1:1 at the transmitter output, power not consumed by the antenna can only be dissipated in the loss resistance of the transmission line and in the RF resistance of the tuning and coupling components. Summary Whilst heavy duty coaxial cable seems the best choice of RF transmission line to run up a solid metal structure, such as a steel tower, open wire line is often a better choice for wire antennas, particularly those functioning in multiband operation. Because of its low transmission loss, the open wire line can be efficiently used on the high frequency bands with a high standing wave ratio or in a fully tuned mode. A number of typical applications in the use of open wire line have been presented. Particular attention has been given to the 300 ohm TV open wire line which is an excellent product for amateur radio use, if it can be obtained. Apart from its application in feeding HF antennas, it is also a good low loss line for VHF applications. (Of course it was designed for VHF TV.) References 1. ARRL Antenna Handbook 2. Varney - The G5RV Antenna - Amateur Radio, Dec 1982 (Reprint)
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