Friday, February 7, 2014

13cm NO TUNE doubler - multiplier

After some time I am back :-)

The multiplier layout on the LNA4HF PCB
...and the real doubler

Monday, April 1, 2013

NOTARS-S Transverter 13cm band

NO Tune And Really Small, this time for 13cm band...
After successful testing of NOTARS-C band transverter for the 3400 MHz it was just a matter of time to do the same with the transverter for the S band. It means this transverter can be used on all 13cm bands world wide 2304 MHz, 2320 MHz, 2401 MHz etc... It can be used also as the  S53MV NBP ( Non-Flawless Protocol) transverter for up converting the 70cm band to 13 cm or 9 cm ( using the NOTARS-C ) Low side or high side L.O. injection - it does not matter until we use the 70cm band for the I.F.

The beer bottle caps are not the part of the project, they are here just to give you the idea of the transverter size. Maybe this beer caps are good for filters up on the 6cm band but not here :-) This is the prof of project board and the final PCB should be even smaller, there is a plenty room for the resizing making everything working the same on less FR-4 substrate. There is a short video showing the reception from the other 13cm transverter using just a Wi-Fi vip antenna.

It can be noted that the frequency stability is quite OK. For the L.O. in the video I am using Si-4133 synthesizer running at 1888 Mhz requiring 432 Mhz for the I.F. for the successfully operation on the 2320 MHz what became a standard in the Europe. For other 13cm band plans scheme just drive the other L.O. frequency. The other side 13cm transverter (transmitting on the video) is using a crystal oscillator with the multiplier to reach the desired L.O. frequency. after a couple of minutes, the stability was also good.

The transmitting part is working also nice, producing more then 18dBm (70mW) of power on 2320 Mhz. This can be enough for rover type operation with the standard Wi-Fi antenna. A small sequencer with the power attenuator and you are ready to go. The on board filters are reducing the unwanted mixer products and L.O. signal almost 50dBc without any external filter. The twins from the picture are ready for the operation. For a moment we will stop here, NOTARS for 5760Mhz is not yet ready.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

C-band multiplier

As I required some descent L.O. signal for my NOTARS-C transverter the easiest way was to use my  Si-4133 synthesizer. The upper limit for the synthesizer is roughly 2 GHz so some kind of a simple multiplier was required. No tune multiplier as a solution can be handy (same approach as 5.7GHz multiplier) but then I will be constrained to narrow selection of L.O frequencies. Possibility to tune to various frequencies was much better cause I want to test my NOTARS-C using both, high and low side injection with IF on 144 and 432 MHz. Between several possibility, the pipe cap filter was a "best buy" option. Simple, cheap, easy to tune and not taking so much time to fabricate one.

Looking around the "acid house" i found some 3/4 pipe caps from some previous projects, so this was easy to pick up. Dead bug style is no option on microwave frequencies, so some kind of PCB is a must. Luckily I have a pile of commercial equipment PCBs where a piece was striped of with a 50ohm microstrip line. X-acto knife and a little bit of imagination and the PCB was ready. Not nice and tidy but sufficient for the quick and dirty project. The multiplier was built around two MMIC amplifiers. The first SNA-286 is running as a multiplier and the second one, ERA-5 is running as amplifier. Of course, some other MMIC can be used instead, but it is wise to use the MMICs that are working on the frequencies of interest. In my case, both MMICs are good up to 6 GHz so there should be no problem at C band at all.

 To force the first MMIC to act as a multiplier it is essential to saturate the MMIC just enough to produce reach harmonics. Do not push higher than maximum input power is allowed according the data sheet (dBm). I found that levels from 4-5dBm are working very good for this purposes. The higher input level will not always insure the higher output on desired harmonic frequency. Same goes for the Rb bias resistor. Increasing the value over the 80 ohm can give as a higher output level on desired harmonics too. This should be found by experiment. Do not go lower than 80 ohms because this Rb value will insure the highest allowed bias current. I found 100 ohms value to be handy for all frequencies from 2 up to 7 GHz. After filtering the required harmonic frequency with the pipe cap filter the signal is amplified with the second MMIC, ERA-5 which produce high and stable gain up to 6 Ghz. The output at 3836 Mhz was 17.6 dBm in my case, more then expected.

The pipe cap construction was straightforward. There is not much to explain, the design is quite simple. The dimensions of 3/4" are standard. In Europe they are sold under marking "22". I found the type "Vieaga 22" 22 stands for inner pipe cap diameter in mm. Inner height is 18 mm. For probes I used simple copper wire, 0.6 mm dia. Length inside the  pipe cap was 8 mm and the distance between the probes was 12.7 mm. 3/4" pipe cap will give us the possibility to tune the filter from 2 up to 7 Ghz roughly. The peak on 3896 MHz was very strong and easily found, tuned with the M4 screw.

Pipe cap filter was a good choice. The signal was clean on required frequency. At the same time the attenuation was enough on the higher harmonics not to cause any problems. Tuning around the C-band was really easy and not sharp making no problem to distinguish the 144 and 432 Mhz IF frequency. Tuning on higher harmonics other then 2nd was also easy. I manage to tune the filter even on the 4th harmonic, of course with the reduced output, but still usable and clean signal.
After all, the multiplier came out as small and handy solution. This one will probably end up as a small C-band beacon.

Monday, March 25, 2013

NOTARS-C Transverter 3400 MHz

Mine is smaller than the other :-)
The only thing that men are fighting about the smaller one is the mobile phone. Well, not just the mobile phone, but also we can say, the transverter. Everybody is looking for the smaller and better.

You may ask why NOTARS ?
NO Tune And Really Small - C band transverter. Easy and simple, plug and pray solution. No tuning parts, no expensive laminate, fixed filters, simple layout. Of course, it can be even smaller by using 0603 instead of 0805 SMD parts but do we need such a small transverter ?

Small ha...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

5.7 GHz poor guy transverter

Not so many simple transverters for 6cm band seen up to now. So here is one, really simple and working, with minimum parts required and poor guy like me did find all the parts within the pile of microwave "LEGO bricks".

The architecture is traditional and straightforward, no bells and whistles in this design. The core of the transverter is the mixer. Simple as it can be, SKY-60 double balanced mixer working up to 6GHz with affordable price, new through the e-bay purchase. Drive on the IF port 0dBm @ 432MHz, +7dBm @ 5328MHz for the LO port. On the output RF port we have LO, LO+432MHz and LO-432MHz signal present. To get rid of the unwanted signals the mixer is followed by the filter. Here we can use many types of filters but the pipe cap was a simple and cheap solution, can be tuned easily even with no special measuring equipment. Tune to peak method will give good results. Of course the frequency is 5760MHz. This filter will be used both , for RX and TX operation. PIN diodes, RF switch, relay, resistor splitter or Wilkinson divider. Well, the Wilkinson divider was appropriate and simple enough for this approach. More over, no switching required for RX/TX operation. I made mine from the old 1.8GHz cellular equipment easily cutting out the peace of the PCB with the printed divider. Simple calculation, sharp x-act knife and the divider legs were modified to L/4 @ 5.760MHz. This way I end up with two ports, one for the RX and the other for the TX side of the transverter. For the RX front end i choose not the best, but cheap and simple MMIC block with the MGA-86563 declared to work up to 6GHz with not so bad performance. The MMIC was biased for the maximum gain with 8V power supply. On the transmitting side there is also a MMIC block, simple Sirenza SNA-586 good up to 6GHz biased for the maximum gain with 8V power supply. 

So this is it, a simple transverter, of course with the limited performance but good for the quick qso with the neighbor station or somebody on the hill within the line of sight. To operate this transverter we need some kind of local oscillator and a simple electronics handling the power and antenna switching. Crystal oscillator with the chain of multipliers can give us maybe better phase noise but better stability and more flexibility in choosing the IF insure the synthesizer built fir microwave frequencies. I choose the VK3XDK Si-4133 synthesizer version with the 16 programmable frequencies. The synthesizer is locked to high quality 10MHz double oven oscillator granting excellent stability and lower phase noise comparing to the cheap 10MHz canned oscillators. I prefer to use the 70cm IF so the LO was programmed to 1776MHz. The 13dBm output was attenuated with the 7db attenuator to safely drive the 3x multiplier box producing some 15dBm of the signal @ 5328MHz. Again 7db attenuator between the multiplier and mixer to bring the signal to the required mixer level. At the same time the mixer was very happy to "see" the 50 ohms impedance at any port. For this experiment i choose the IF 432MHz, but much better will be 434 or higher. Not more than 0dBm is required on the mixer IF port, so the 27dBm (500mW) signal from the FT-817d was reduced with the 26db attenuator at the sequencer board. Sequencer is also switching the power for the MMICs in the transverter as well as the power for the coaxial relay at the output. RF sensing and PTT ports insuring high protection. If the coaxial relay or RF electronic switch is not available we can use two separate antennas for the RX and TX. With this arrangement the setup is ready for the smoke test and initial qso testing. The output power is low, not reaching not even 1mW and the conversion gain is also poor just a few db so some extra amplification is required for serious work. 

Good LNA will lower the noise figure and improve the conversion gain and on the other side a few MMICs on the TX side will give us pleasure to work some distant stations. Just for the test I add another SNA-586 on the TX side bringing the signal up to the 3dBm. Not much, but at the same time I add another pipe cap filter between the MMIC blocks to reach the cleaner signal at the output. Result can be seen at the video. The same approach can be used to build the transverter for the other microwave bands, so no excuse for the low activity at the microwave bands. 

So "Use them or lose them"

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

24 GHz transverter update

As I received a few queries regarding the transverter here is the update on done so far. I make some small modifications but nothing that is diverting from the original idea. I did have a big problems with the YIG PLL oscillator MTS1500 which was not working properly. I discovered that the YIG inside the whole unit is faulty, can not be locked neither controlled properly. After so many time devoted to this unit I quit and order the other YIG PLL oscillator DFS-1201 which is working as required, immediately after first start. More over I program two frequencies so the same unit can be used aloso as the LO for the 47GHz operation.

Briefly, here we have a DFS-1201 YIG PLL programmed for L.O./2 frequency to suit the 436MHz IF. DFS-1201 is controlled via the small PCB with the PIC microcontroler (directly on the DFS-1201 connector) where 2 programmed frequencies are available. The output signal is 14dBm and splited in two for upconverter and downconverter. No waveguide relay as mentioned previously, isolator is good enough to protect the downconverter from the 300mW which can produce the TRW upconverter.
The bottom PCB is switching the voltages for the units and acting as a small sequencer together with the IF attenuator and switching.
Power supply boards with the voltage stabilisers are attached to the left/right walls of the plastic housing.

The antenna is attached directly to the third isolator port through the short peace of the WR-42 flexible waveguide. The antenna is not so big and the radom has been dismantled to make this system light and easy for operating. Even not so big the antenna is quite sharp and careful pointing is required.

Some initial test were performed and overall feeling is that the transverter perform very good. The RX NF is very good and the YIG PLL stability after initial warming up of 5 minutes is excellent. Circulator instead of  relay seems to be a very handy because no headache and fear to burn the downconverter front end. No "smart" sequencing is required and loss are reduced to the minimum.
Present ODX is 168.5 km LOS qso during the summer with the humidity close to 90% over the sea path. Winter should be the right time to gain this distance.

73 and CU on 24GHz

Monday, November 12, 2012

W1GHZ cheap 3cm beacon board

Some time ago besides some other PCB's I ordered also the board for the simple 3cm beacon oscillator project from Paul, W1GHZ. The price was really affordable, and you never know when you will need some simple multiplier project like this. The latest, I heard that he is running with stock low of this board, so this means that people are building this stuff more and more. On the other side, not so many feedback on the web regarding the results obtained from this simple multiplier leaving idea that all this projects are working perfect with no problems or they are not working at all and people are giving up without an extra effort to tune properly this interesting approach to old fashioned multiplier idea.

So here it is, completed and tuned multiplier for 10368MHz. Of course, I did make some small modifications to get the best results from this board, at the end it is working. I saw that Paul published the update on this project, but maybe somebody will find my hints useful too. 
The first thing that can be noticed, my tuning screws are quite long, this is not necessary. I did use the same project for some other final frequencies (11808MHz) and I left the screws long enough also for the lower frequencies. The size of the screws: M4 brass for the first (3.5GHz) pipe cap and M3 brass for the other two (10GHz) pipe caps.
Secondly, I did use 9V power supply, instead of 8V. The only reason was the 9V voltage regulator that was handy for me. All MMIC bias resistors are modified to get the best results with 9V.  As there is enough place on the board, I have two resistors in series for each MMIC stage. This way I can easily tune the bias current and the dissipation on resistor is lower, even I am using 1208 SMD bias resistors.
About MMICs, I mount 3x SNA-286 and 2x NLB-310. I went through the data sheets quickly, and I noticed that ERA-1 is quite poor for the 10GHz and decide to use NLB-310. I don't know how Paul manage to get the 11dBm from ERA-1 on 10GHz, but this is not option not even in the data sheet :-)

So, this are all mods. done from my side regarding the original approach. Let's start with tuning...

I have to said that without Spectrum analyzer not reading the Paul's advice, tuning this multiplier can be quite confusing. So, at least any kind of power detector able to detect -10dBm @ 10GHz is a "must" to reach the final result. For the signal generator, I did use the handy Si-4133 generator where i have programmed 16 well known microwave frequencies. 1152MHz and 5dBm is what we need. 
The first pipe cap should be tuned  to x3 = 3456MHz. This should not be a big problem because of the size of the pipe cap that does not allow to tune to the 2nd harmonic frequency. With the screw completely inside, backing the screw a few turns out the strong signal / power peak will be present at certain point at the first SMA tuning point. At this point you are at 3456MHz, all what we need from the first two MMICs and big pipe cap. Backing the screw more out you will reach another peak of the signal, almost the same strength, this is x4 = 4608MHz. If you have a sensitive power meter or detector, backing the screw almost completely out of the pipe cap you can observe some weak peak also on the x5 = 5760MHz frequency. So, this pipe cap can be tuned to 3 different frequencies, our goal is to tune to the lower (first) one.
This step was quite easy, the next one will require more precision and patience. The two 1/2 pipe caps should be tuned to 10368MHz. They are to small to be tuned to the x2 =6912MHz and they are too big to be tuned to x4 = 13824MHz so the only possibility is to tune them to x3 = 10368MHz. With the M3 screws completely inside slowly backing them, some where in the middle of the pipe cap you will notice the power peak at the output SMA. You will need to tune both pipe caps parallel to reach this point. Once you reach the peak, tune the both screws for the maximum output signal. This should bring you on the 10368MHz.

Looking nice, well more about this later :-)
Following this procedure the power I get on the 10GHz was only 0dBm, not even. The first thought was, where the f... I lost the 10dBm?? Driving the multiplier with the different power levels I found the +7dBm  @ 1152MHz gave the best output (+1dBm). But this is still far away from +11dBm...
I start to play with the first MMIC (SNA-286) bias resistors, and there was a nice improvement. I had to increase the resistor almost double to squeeze the maximum from this first multiplier stage. The output power went easily to +5dBm. I thought that same procedure with tuning the third SNA-286 bias multiplier will bring up the output power to desired +10dBm but this was not the case. Changing the bias did not bring any better results. Maybe SNA-286 are not so good in producing the harmonics at higher frequencies??
So, for the moment I stopped here, +5dBm @ 10368MHz is good enough for me, but for sure I will investigate the difference between the ERA-2, SNA-286 and some other MMIC candidates in producing high reach harmonics above 10GHz.

Let's go back to a nice looking signal shape from the picture before. Really nice ha? OK, there is another (fuzzy) shot of the Spectrum analyzer screen.

Not so perfect, ha? Well, believe it or not, this is the same signal from the previous picture. So where is the catch? To simply explain, I will compare this with the Miss universe competition :-) Looking from the balcony all those girls looking nice, but coming closer we can see that some of them are looking not so good as from the balcony. Same here, if you use the span of 100MHz you will get the first picture, if you use the span on the S.A. of 1MHz you can  get the 2nd, more realistic picture.
Well, this have nothing to do with the multiplier, but just want to give you an idea how Si-4133 signal looks after x9 multiplication. I want to gain that my Si-4133 oscillator is using the good quality Isotemp double oven 10MHz reference oscillator, so imagine how the signal will look using the cheap 10MHz canned oscillator.
I get the nice phase noise comparison measurement chart made recently on the MUD 2012 meeting compiled from Paul, W1GHZ. So all credits goes to him and the guy who measure it. Nothing more to add...

At the end, just a few ideas where to use this multiplier, of course the first idea will be a simple 3cm signal beacon source. I did use the same to generate the 11808MHz signal for one of my 24GHz transverters. You can hook up also the Comtech ATV TX tuned to 1161 MHz to reach 10450MHz. Driving this multiplier with the 720MHz can result with the output of 10800MHz which can be a simple L.O. solution for the 10368MHz transverter with the I.F. 432MHz (LSB). So many solutions for the simple multiplier.

By the way, if you manage to reach +11dBm of output power, let me know...