Building a radio in 10 minutes.

For our 10 minute radio, we will need these parts: A ferrite loop antenna coil In our other crystal radios we wound the coil by hand. In this project we use a much smaller coil with a ferrite rod inside, from our catalog. The ferrite rod allows the coil to be smaller, and it can be moved in and out of the coil for coarse tuning. A variable capacitor (30 to 160 picofarads) We carry this in our catalog. You can also find them in old broken or discarded radios. A Germanium diode (1N34A) We carry this in our catalog. A piezoelectric earphone Also in our catalog. A short wire or alligator jumper We use an alligator jumper here for convenience. Radio Shack part number 278-1156, or you can find them anywhere electronics parts are sold. You can use any piece of insulated wire instead. About 50 to 100 feet of stranded insulated wire for an antenna. This is actually optional, since you can use a TV antenna or FM radio antenna by connecting our radio to one of the lead-in wires. But it's fun to throw your own wire up over a tree or on top of a house, and it makes the radio a little more portable. A block of wood or something similar for a base

Click on photo for a larger picture

You can see from the photo how simple this radio is, and why it can be put together in a very short time. The wires from the ferite loop are soldered to the two rightmost leads of the variable capacitor. It doesn't matter which wire goes to which lead. The germanium diode is soldered to one of the leads of the variable capacitor. Again, it doesn't matter which lead. One of the piezoelectric earphone wires is soldered to the free end of the germanium diode. The other is soldered to the lead of the variable capacitor that does not have the diode attached to it. Lastly, the alligator jumper is simply looped around the coil once (if you have a nice long antenna and a good ground) or a few times (for shorter antennas). We'll glue the coil and the wire down later, after we have tested the radio. In the meantime, some sticky tape can hold it onto the base. That's it -- you're done!

How does it work?

To use the radio, connect one end of the alligator jumper to your antenna. Connect the other end to a good ground, such as a cold water pipe. We will start the tuning with the variable capacitor set in the middle of its range, neither all the way clockwise, nor all the way counter clockwise.

With the earphone in your ear, slowly move the ferrite rod into the coil, listening for radio stations. With a long antenna, and a single loop of the alligator jumper, you can tune several radio stations. In some areas, one or two stations will be so close or so powerful that they overwhelm all the others, and you will only hear those one or two stations. If you have a shorter antenna, the stations will sound very faint if you only use one loop of the alligator jumper. Looping the jumper around the coil two or three times will increase the volume. But the volume increase comes at a price -- you will hear fewer stations. The number of loops in the alligator jumper trade off volume for selectivity. The best way to increase the volume is to use as long an antenna as you can, and a good ground connection.

How does the ferrite change the frequency?

The ferrite rod increases the inductance of the coil. In our other (handwound) coils, we increased the inductance by winding some more loops, or by using a "tapped" coil, and selecting a tap that was farther down the coil. As the ferrite rod is inserted into the coil, more of the coil is affected by the ferrite, and so the inductance increases. Increasing the inductance moves the frequency lower. This allows us to hear stations "lower on the radio dial". Ferrite is used because it is magnetic, like iron or steel, but it is not a conductor of electricity. If it were conductive, the coil would induce "eddy currents" in it, and some of the energy would be lost heating up the core. Because ferrite is not a conductor, we can use its magnetic properties to change the inductance of the coil, without losing volume. If you have a long antenna, a good ground, and you are not too close to a strong station, the variable capacitor will help in fine tuning the stations.

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