Sunday, September 19, 2021

6m FT8 on an ordinary day in September


Don't have much time to play with the radio hobby these days. But find a free hour today. Decided to give CQ on FT8 with about 70W in all directions on 6m. Antenna is the YU7EF 5 el. 6m/ 5 el. 4m duoband beam on 15mh. Didn't receive any signal. Although others did receive me...

I decided to do the same on 10m later on. Received quite stable signals from V51MA (Namibia). And he received me as well.

On 10m I used 100W into the 4 elem. LFA on 13mh

Just to show there is always some sort of propagation even on a deserted band...

As a matter of fact, just a few moments later I made a QSO with ZS6AF (RSA)... His signal boosted by the greyline was -4dB at the moment we were in QSO.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Magnetic Loop Antenna - The wrong path, questionable. But it ends well...

Tuning box outside
In my last post about experimenting with the MLA I commented to John AE5X that I had to figure out how to get my MLA resonating on 28MHz. I thought a smaller cap (switchable) would be a solution. John gave as answer a link to a calculator to see what value I would need.

I calculated my antenna as follows:

Antenna length 2.70 meter (notice don't use a comma but a point!), conductor 0.9 cm diameter, 28MHz, 10W.

I would be needing a 23pF capacitor. However in practice I needed a 9pF capacitor to match as good as possible, still a 2:1 SWR. Well, you see the comments: 2.7 m is not ideal. I thought that's why I probabely don't get a good match. The antenna is self resonating since it is a quarter wave long, I should avoid that. The only way is to make a smaller loop. A antennalenght of 2.55 m will do fine. Unfortunately it will cost me some efficiency. But with these kind of antennas it is always a trade off.
So I redesigned it and calculated it as follows:

Notice that I now actually measured the diameter of the coax braid which is 7mm. Tuning capacitance would be approx 29pF but unfortunately even using my minimum of 15pF gives me a max. usable frequency of 22MHz.

So, I was thinking now. I would be pleased with a small MLA that would cover 80m-10m. Normally that is impossible. But why not using an extra loop in series? A so called multiturn loop. Yes, it is not efficient, but always better as a dummyload. So, I found another calculator on the web. This one seems to be more accurate and you can calculate multiturn loops as well.

Calculating with the same values as before I found that the capacitor needed would be 12pF which is much lower, actually it is half the value I got with the first calculator. Strange this calculator didn't warn that the loop would be too long, but on the other hand, that's the theory you should know as MLA builder. I constructed another 2,5m long loop and connected it in series with the existing one. The 80m is available this way without any problems tuning it.

But now I was thinking, when visiting the website from OM0ET who heavily influenced me in designing my own loop. Why is he using a too long loop (3m) and still be able to tune it between 40-10m. Someone pointed me to a possible answer. OM0ET only uses the core from the H1000 coax he uses. This is what is written on his website:

The Main Loop is made of an excellent quality coaxial cable BELDEN H1000 (made in Holland) which is 10,3mm thick in outer diameter. Inner conductor is made of solid Bare Copper 2,62mm thick core which allows to hold the perfect circular shape of the loop without deformation of gravity. In all my Magloops is connected only the inner core. Outer shield is disconnected for improve the SWR results and less sensitivity of nearby objects.

Theoretically this can't work very well since the core has only a diameter of 2,7mm. And we all know as experienced loop builders that the larger the diameter the more efficient your loop will be. But you never know, I could be some coupling between inner/outer conductor takes place. At least I found it valuable to experiment with it and I only connected the inner core to my tuning box. Unfortunately tuning the antenna was almost impossible now, and it looked like it was even more sensitive when I came close with my hand to tune the whole antenna. Besides that best SWR was 1:1,7 (R85 X=15) at most peaks and highest good SWR available was at 20MHz. Not really a success. So, I connected the shield again to continue my quest for tuning the MLA to 28MHz.

I measured the capacity of my variable capacitor again. It is 15-525pF approx. The minimum capacity is too large to tune the loop above 22 MHz, that is something for shure. I needed a system to lower this capacity. So I thought of a simple switch, switching a capacitor in series with the existing one or short this capacitor out to disconnect it. As a simple capacitor I used 9cm of RG58 instead of a mica cap used before, it has a value of about 9pF in theory (in practice as well after measuring). The nice works! I'm able to tune 24,8-28,8 MHz now. 12m and 10m with a flip of a simple switch. 

However, with this experiment I'm now convinced that the capacitor is the most important thing in the whole MLA installation. Most valuable would be a variable capacitor with a range of 0-1000pF or so. The problem is that such a device probabely does not exist and if needed you have to construct it yourself. Keep in mind that you need some kind of reduction device otherwise tuning would be impossible.

Experimenting with Magnetic Loop Antennas is very addictive. It is simple to build such an antenna and there are a lot of "simple" challenges, practical and theoretical, to explore. To not make this blog post too long I decided to write another post about the practical modifications I made to my loop, including some photos from the experiments so far. I might do some on-air tests in the mean time, because that's were an antenna is made for.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

30m MLA test


Busy to write a blogpost about my new experiments with the homemade Magnetic Loop Antenna. But what would it be worth without testing the thing. Testsite for now is my garage, the antenna is surrounded by stone and iron.

Transmitter is the W5OLF WSPR VCXO-AXE. It transmits 1W on 30m.

All monitored by the excellent WSPR Watch app on my Iphone. 44 unique spots during the night. The transmitter was battery powered and functioned till it was empty.