QRP Modules 2011

Introduction


As experimenters, we rebuild core circuits over time. I decided to increase my collection of stock modular circuits to avoid re-inventing the wheel. This web page serves as a module repository for the website.

Since our needs differ, I've shared these circuits more for interest sake and really not as schematics to copy. All modules were carefully built and tested.

1 great virtue of the metal encased module is strong shielding. RF modules use a 50 ohm port impedance and BNC connectors. RCA jacks interface the AF modules.


40 Meter Band-pass Filter


Above — A 40 Meter Ham band double-tuned band-pass filter. I designed this circuit using 2 programs that came with EMRFD and describe the process on this web page. The 2.4 uH measured coils were wound using #22 AWG wire on T68-6 powdered iron toroids and all fixed caps were ceramic C0G type. I centered my filter at 7.040 MHz. You should be able to peak it anywhere on the 40 Meter CW sub-band by tweaking the variable capacitors.

I peaked the trimmer capacitor while looking at the peak-to-peak voltage on a 50 ohm terminated oscilloscope. The filter input was connected to a 7.040 MHz signal generator with a 30 dB return loss, low harmonics (-55 dBc) and 50 ohm cables.

Above — A simulation of my filter design in in GPLA08. The calculated IL was 1.68 dB, I measured the IL at 2.1 dB The calculated return loss or S11 was 37.2 dB; I measured 27 dB. A good filter.

Above — the 40 meter double tuned band-pass filter breadboard with temporary BNC connectors and series caps. Since this filter will serve as my main front-end filter for all future 40M band receiver bench design, I blinged out and put in big toroids and high Q, air-variable trimmer capacitors. While I could have just use a single 150 pF tank capacitor and a wide range trimmer cap such as common, ceramic 10-70 pF, the small range, high Q trimmer capacitors offer better performance and fine tuning.

Click for a spectrum analyzer +tracking generator sweep where the center frequency = 7.040 MHz. Graticules: Horizontal = 1 MHz per division, Vertical = 10 dB per division. You can see why it tunes so sharply.

After testing the bread-board, I removed the temporary BNC connectors and series caps, I stuck it in a Hammond box and wired in permanent, short leaded 47 pF capacitors. Final testing in the sealed box varied minimally from the open bread board. This board looks especially ugly because it held a previous filter and contained lots of remnant solder.


Broadband Feedback Amp


Above — A "Beaverton Special" feedback amp with analysis. As experimenters, we often need a go-to, broadband 50 ohms input and output RF amplifier. This is it!

Popularized by Wes, W7ZOI and Doug DeMaw, W1FB, this amp has stood the test of time and fits perfectly into the 50 ohm module concept. A bevy of transistors were tried — a 2N4401, 2N5179, 2N3904, 2N3866 or 2N5109 all worked fine. For the greatest return loss and signal handling possible, current over 21 mA is required and thus a 2N3904 isn't the best choice. Collector current = heat, so heat sink the BJT as appropriate.

I found that a 2N2222a biased with over 22 mA emitter current gave a stellar output return loss and low distortion. Within reason, for different transistors, keep the bias and feedback resistors constant and change the emitter resistor (100 ohms in my amp) to set the current you want or need.

Many builders follow this amp with an attenuator pad to preserve the input return loss.


Diode Ring Mixer



Above — A Minicircuits TUF-1 diode ring mixer was used in standard configuration. 7 dBm LO drive.

Above — The DRM module. It's hard to photograph inside a solder laden chassis. Connections are short.


Popcorn Audio Frequency Power Amplifiers


Above — Popcorn receiver audio power amp. I wanted a simple audio stage for testing popcorn receivers (to follow a high output impedance preamp device). Completing this module means never having to build such an amp again. The voltage gain is provided by BJTs to keep the noise down, but the popcorn factor up. The preamp impressed me with its strong signal handling capacity via feedback and careful biasing. The NPN is center biased so that when its intentionally distorted during testing, the positive and negative halves of the AC waveform distort equally — it provides a nice, big, AC voltage swing. An LM386 in X20 gain mode with some bass boosting comprises a reasonable power amp section. The 10K resistor on the output discharges the 470 uF cap when no speaker is connected to avoid a loud pop. The 4K7 series input R can be lowered, or omitted for more sensitivity.

Some builders might employ the LM386 in a higher gain mode at the expense of fidelity, or just wire up a TDA7052. I think in popcorn circuits, what really matters is that you understand what you're doing and try to design rather than just copy the "usual circuits".

Above — The popcorn AF amp in a clear blue chassis.  Phono jacks provided a connection for the input and output — they 're inexpensive and readily available. The DC supply is connected to uninsulated banana jacks on the rear; it's well decoupled (resistor) + bypassed (capacitor) to help stop parasitic AF feedback. This amp is pretty quiet, considering its junk box legacy.

Above — The project with the top cover removed. The board is secured by the ground wires connecting it to the pot, jacks and DC voltage posts. The input is on the right.

I like a relatively simple, lower gain AF amp on the bench for receiver development. You can use such an amp to decide on how much overall AF gain is needed, how you'll distribute it, and not have to deal with unwanted AF feedback.

Above — 1 watt popcorn audio power amplifier. Built around the BD139/140 complimentary pair - I achieved a clean I KHz sine wave at 1.1 Watts power after testing + tweaking my prototype design. I chose the familiar series diode pair to bias the power followers into Class A/B; an amplified diode (transistor level shifter) might be a better choice.

Bootstrapping the 2N3904 voltage amp pumps up the clean signal power capacity. The 2N3906 establishes the bias for the 2N3904 and the BD139-140 pair. Set the 10K bias pot so that the DC voltage at TP1 is 1/2 of the VCC. During testing, the AC voltage was centered perfectly between the DC rails and when pushed into clipping, the positive and negative AC waveform distorted nearly equally. Quiescent current = 28 mA ; not meant for a field-portable receiver.

Click for a photo of my breadboard. Copper clad board serves as heat sinks for the power followers. The BD139 and BD140 make great complimentary transistors for audio frequency power amplifiers. With an Ft of 190 MHz, the BD139 can work okay as a driver or even the final in modest power QRP transmitters.

Above — 1 watt Audio PA (reverse view).


Pop DC2 — Popcorn Direct Conversion Receiver Main Frame

These circuits update the Popcorn DC receiver from 1998 and includes all components from the product detector through to the speaker, minus the VFO and band-pass filter.

Above — The mixer and first audio preamplifier The 0.22 uF to 0.47uF cap connecting Q2's collector to the low-pass filter network exerts a high-pass response to remove low frequency noise and potentially any hum. I heard no hum, although a 470 uF filter capacitor on Q1 helps ensure that. Increase the 100 uF filter capacitor filtering Q2 if you hear hum or motor boating. The diode ring mixer exhibits AF that's hard to beat — very dynamic, vibrant and lively. I enjoyed the low microphonics with the double balance + a return loss of over 25 dB on all of 3 of its ports. Alternate photo.

I've read negative comments about my use of "those big filter capacitors" — 1 thing radiophiles can learn from audiophiles is that to adequately decouple and bypass means we need to stop fooling around with the usual 22 - 47 uF capacitors and really bypass. Viewing well designed AF amplifiers informs us so; these designers really filter their amplifiers from the DC supply. You can always increase the decoupling resistor value to allow use of a smaller capacitor value, however, we only have a single power supply at around 12 VDC, and I dislike giving up too much of it for DC filtering purposes. Do what ever amuses you.

Click for some analysis of the preamp. The MPSA18 went obsolete in 2011, so I chose the low-noise 2N5089 for Q1 and Q2.

The Popcorn DC2 receiver keeps the format of the earlier version; discrete transistors for all but the power amp and R-C low-pass filtering. The filter still allows you to listen to SSB, as there aren't many poles and the cutoff is nearly 900 Hertz —it just removes the ice-pick in the ear often heard in unfiltered DC receivers. You can change the capacitor values for a different cutoff frequency. Applet E performs this function.

Second Preamplifier Stage with TDA7052 final

Above — The 2nd pre-amp and AF power amp. Experimenting with a number of audio stages,  I decided on this cascode common emitter / common base amp biased to provide temperature stability, high gain, low distortion + proper termination of the low-pass filter. (The input Return Loss = 19 dB in my 820 ohm bridge set up). Increase the 100 uF filter capacitor on Q3 up to as high as 470 uF if you hear motor boating (low frequency thumping). This stage is prone to feedback since it's directly connected to the power amp. Photograph.

The simple and effective TDA bridged amp has a fixed gain of 40, so this receiver isn't crazy loud, however, it sounds okay. The bypass capacitor on Pin 2 filters hash noise and can remove some of the high frequency din from off frequency stations. Experiment to find the best value for your ears; even 0.015 uF might be your preference. I chose a 0.047 uF for my final version.

The 2 uF coupling caps between the power amp and Q3 can be lowered or raised to suit your parts collection. All the audio path coupling or bypass capacitors were "polysomething" types in my bread boards.

This is a base station receiver since the quiescent current draw listening to noise = 37 mA.

For low parts count or beginner's receivers, IC audio power amps make sense; 1 chip and you're done. Consider, for example, the TDA7052 2 bridged amplifiers supply reasonable power and headroom in an 8 pin DIP package. A good, but imperfect part. Depending on your goals and abilities, the limitations of the 7052's fixed 40 dB gain and/or the inability to drive grounded loads or insert additional feedback networks may constrain your designs.

Sound Bytes on 40 Meters:

I recorded these sound bytes prior to adding a 0.047 uF bypass capacitor to pin 2 of the 7052 chip and increasing the coupling cap on Q2 from 0.22 to 0.47 uF.

For a control — An ICOM superheterodyne receiver with digital IF filtering set to wide (2.2 KHz) was recorded immediately after recording the Pop DC2 receiver (although I pressed the middle (900 Hz) and narrow (600 Hz) filter selection briefly, but they made the noise worse), The antenna is a 1/4 wave vertical in a city lot with noisy conditions. I don't believe in artificially making my stuff sound better than real, and present warts-and-all audio files. I compressed these files heavily so you'll hear the noise phase shifting a little. Normally with this antenna, a "quiet" QRN level is S9; it doesn't bother me.  Icom

Pop DC2 — I was tuning through a pile up to hear how the receiver copes with all the signals (twice as many with a DC receiver!)

Pop DC2 — More QRN, QSB and pile ups.

SSB - After this, I changed the .22 coupling cap between Q2 and the R-C filter .47 uF to add a little more bottom end.


Above — Speaker terminal (an RCA jack isolated from ground on the TDA7052 version). Volume pot at right.

Second Preamplifier Stage with LM386 final

Above — The 2nd preamp and final with an LM386 set for just under a gain of 50. Click for a Canadian SSB sound byte.

Alternate Final Amp Stage that connects to the Q3 volume potentiometer

Above — A reader called Maxim Ozerov requested a discrete semiconductor version of the power amp after I posted the 7052 version on my blog. Placing 2 voltage amps inside the negative feedback loop proved challenging, since I'm no expert and learn on the bench. The gain = ~42 and the maximum pure sine wave power before clipping begins to occur = ~625 mW. This amp is louder and sounds warmer than the 7052 version.

2N3904s work fine for Q5 and Q6, but I found that the 2N4401 had a consistently higher DC beta and this helps ensure the bias and collector resistors shown will provide the widest possible, pure AC signal swing.

This amp replaces the earlier IC power amps (connects to 10K volume pot after Q2, however a 2.2 uF coupling cap is required after the volume potentiometer). If you need more voltage gain, increase the value of the 12K negative feedback resistor. Above 75K, the gain will approach 50 and greatly increase the possibility of distortion.

My dummy load for development and testing = three 1/2 watt resistors in parallel: 75, 82 and 10 ohms.

Certainly you can craft better - louder - quieter audio stages with low noise op-amps, however, my readers write that they enjoy building up discrete transistor designs, and for popcorn receivers; I do too.

Sound bytes from November 1, 2011

40 Meters - QRN is lower tonight. Some audio from a lineout tape deck (no tone controls nor equalization). I have only 2 cassette tapes, This one is Russian language from 1983 - the 1 strong accented syllable generates good peaks for AF listening tests. Audio recorded from an 8 ohm, 18 cm (7 inch) speaker mounted in a wooden frame with no back. Speaker choice and cabinets are critical and often overlooked; again we may look to audiophiles for guidance

Click for some 50 ohm AF preamplifier experiments cut from this page.


7 MHz VCO Experiments

As RF designers and builders, we rely on signal generators for nearly every experiment. I sought a reliable 7 MHz voltage controlled oscillator and built 1 after some effort.  I'll describe and critique a VCO I rapidly designed for a reader and then present a better VCO with some design ideas.

7 MHz VCO Experiments: A rapidly developed Popcorn 7 MHz VCO

A reader needed a 7 MHz VCO in a hurry (3 hours); he only had 1 MVAM109 varactor and wanted to cover the bottom 60 KHz of the 40 Meter Ham band using a linear taper 10K potentiometer for tuning. He planned to use a dual-gate MOSFET cascode buffer (good choice), so I didn't have to bother with a buffer.

Above — The VCO with a 100K resistor as the temporary buffer. He'll use a 100K resistor on G1 of the 2-gate MOSFET buffer. With a Q of 150 at 1 MHz; high noise level and a hyper-abrupt capacitance-versus-voltage curve designed for tuning AM radios, the MVAM109 varactor ranks poorly. The C of my MVAM109 with no reverse DC voltage was 725 pF.

Still, this VCO tuned in a linear fashion, showed a nice sinusoidal output and proved frequency stable. I wanted the AC voltage at the varactor anode at under 1 volt pk-pk (it was 752 mV) to help reduce forward conduction during the positive AC voltage swing. I was bad and ran the tuning DC voltage from 0 to 0.45 volts which greatly increases the potential for forward conduction in a varactor. To mitigate this somewhat, an 82 pF couples the varactor to the tank and drops the AC voltage and reactance seen by the varactor.

In VCOs on the web and print, you'll often see builders connect their varactor to a high Z, and high AC voltage point in the VFO tank; whoa!

At HF, if a varactor is forward biased by the positive half of the AC signal, varactor leakage current and voltage-source loading increases momentarily and lowers Q + broadens tuning. Further, serious harmonic energy and phase noise might be generated as the varactor is biased positive and negative alternately. You can sometimes see distortion in your scope during experiments with extreme AC voltage swings across the varactor. The varactor coupling capacitor should be as low as possible.

Balanced varactor tuning (anode to anode) provides another way to reduce AC signal effects at the cost of reduced maximum capacitance since the 2 varactors are in series. With back-to-back varactors, as the AC signal swings, the varactors are driven into high and low capacitance alternately, but the net capacitance remains constant. Thus applied reverse DC voltage sets the varactor capacitance rather than AC signal amplitude.

The reader for whom I made this impromptu circuit can lower the AC tank voltage by decreasing the VCC or increasing the 680 ohm source resistor after installing the buffer and tweaking things for a 7 dBm output voltage. This topology suffers from an amplitude versus frequency issue — at 7.0 MHz, the output = 3.44 volts pk-pk and at 7.066 MHz the output rises to 4.0 volts pk-pk.

Stuck with an MVAM109 constraint and 3 hours to design/build a VCO, I share this circuit as a raw experiment; not an example of good design because it is not. I took the signal off the gate to derive the best sine wave; this requires a lightly coupled, high impedance buffer with strong reverse isolation to prevent the pulling of the VCO frequency by downstream changes.

A lower L + higher C in the tank, and/or a higher Q varactor could turn this VCO into something reasonable. Popcorn versus high performance?  You choose!


7 MHz VCO Experiments: A Suitable 7 MHz VCO

PART 1: Introduction

During my Fall 2011 VCO experiments I studied books including EMRFD and built versions of EMRFD Figures 4.33 and 4.34. Figure 4.33 is a common-base Colpitt's Oscillator using a hyperabrupt varactor. On Q1, the 33 ohm resistor in series with the 0.1 uF cap "de-Q" the 2N3904 to reduce UHF oscillations. Wes also employs current limiting with a 1K5 emitter resistor.

The temperature drift compensation circuit involving a temperature sensitive reference diode + op-amp fascinated me — astute temperature compensation design. I built and tested the whole circuit; the VCO has some amplitude versus frequency and phase noise issues, but it's okay for general use and great for varied environments. After tackling Figure 4.33, I built and tested the JFET Colpitts oscillator in Figure 4.34 and share my experiences developing this VCO with an alternate buffer.

These circuits are not cookie-cutter / carbon-copy: they show raw design ideas from the bench.

PART 2: The Voltage Controlled Oscillator

Above — A JFET Colpitts VCO picked after after trying 5 different topologies. This VCO is my version of EMRFD Figure 4.34; originally designed by Wes, W7ZOI.

This JFET Colpitts oscillator exhibits a flat output versus frequency, low noise, scales easily to other frequencies and accomodates a wide variety of varactors. For example, you may scale it to other frequencies by changing the L and tweaking the "Colpitt's capacitors" up or down as needed.

I employed a small air variable trimmer capacitor to set the lower band edge and this meant experimenting with the inductor to find 1 that allowed me to set the band edge with such a small trimmer capacitor. I built 2 versions; in 1 the required L= 6.09 uH and in the other, L= 6.4 uH. It would be much easier to use a trimmer cap with a larger capacitance range as it makes chosing the inductor less exacting.

 With the trimmer shown set to half its range, I started with a 6.6 uH coil and remove 1 turn at a time until the output in a counter was close to 7.00 MHz. After permanently fixing the inductor, I tweaked the trimmer cap so the lower band edge was 7.000 MHz with the chassis lid on.

To further drop phase noise, you could reduce the 33 pF coupling cap, add another pair of anti-parallel varactors, run a higher C to L ratio, or perhaps decrease the source resistor to increase the current limiting. Also low resistance, high Q, SMT varactors would help lower phase noise — SOD parts are tiny, but test your hand steadiness and vision.

Above — When tuning from the minimum frequency and tuning voltage (7.0 MHz / 3.0 VDC) to the maximum tuning voltage and frequency (7.103 MHz / 12.21 VDC) the signal amplitude only changes 0.04 volts peak-peak.

I kept a minimum of 3.0 VDC on the varactors at the minumum frequency to provide reasonably linear tuning, keep the applied reverse voltage away from 0, and improve temperature stability. All were bench determined and are not factors you can generalize to all VCO circuits. Change the minimum DC voltage on your VCO control by adjusting the resistor on the grounded end of the pot; 3K3 in my case.

 Click for a moderate resolution photograph of the VCO and buffer prior to adding the temperature compensation parts.

PART 3: The Buffer/Amplifer

Above — The Q1-Q2 hybrid-cascode amp gives strong reverse isolation (nearly 70 dB) and front panel gain control. You could also employ a dual gate MOSFET or JFET cascode with either fixed bias, front panel control, or a trimmer resistor to adjust the bias on Q2

I enjoyed designing the Q3 final amp amp and matching its input impedance to the output Z of Q2. One way to establish a fixed + known output impedance in order to to get a strong return loss without tuned circuits/networks is to feedback some signal from the collector to the base. The difficulty lies in finding how much negative feedback to apply, while still DC biasing the amplifier for good temperature stability. I set up a crude experiment to determine the Scattering Parameter S22. The goal is to set up a good Q3 output return loss using feedback + matching the Q3 input impedance by tweaking the inductor resistor across L1 and adjusting Q3's emitter degeneration.

The return loss in my first prototype without any attenuator pad = 29 dB; some of this was pure luck.

Above — Q2 and Q3 with 3 variable orange colored resistors in-situ and a Return-Loss bridge connected to the output. The potentiometers are tweaked while watching the detected output in an oscillocope. Adjust all the pots for the lowest peak-peak voltage and then carefully remove each pot and measure its resistance with an ohm meter. Replace all 3 pots with the nearest equivalent standard value resistor. Then measure and calculate the return loss (negative of S22). Watch the Q3 emitter resistance — too little R might bring distortion.

Above — A seperate buffer built with 100% different parts that required different AC feedback plus shunt resistor across L1. The parts in this circuit weren't as hot as Version A, and the maximum output voltage was only 1.8 volts pk-pk. In order to get the AC output voltage to just above 2 volts, I had to tweak the resistor labelled R.

To keep the heat and current down in the final amp, I decided to keep the maximum clean output to 2 volts peak-peak ( = 10 mW = 10 dBm ) with an emitter current of ~ 12 mA. If you want higher clean output than 10 dBm, you'll have to run more Q3 emitter current and maybe choose a different BJT, plus apply a heat sink.

When cranked to maximum DC voltage, the Q2 gain pot allows a peak output AC voltage of ~2.2 volts pk-pk into 50 ohms and distortion is evident. At or below 2 volts pk-pk all is well — I'll use this VCO mostly from 0 to 7 dBm.

Since the circuits uses 2 BJTs and a JFET and many 5% tolerance resistors , the Q3 output will vary according to your parts. Tweak the resistor labelled R to provide a maximum AC signal just over 2 volts peak-peak into 50 ohms. This translates to around 3.8-5.5 volts DC bias for Q2 with your gain pot cranked fully clockwise.

Return loss variations. You probably noticed the return loss in Version B = 23 dB, while Version A = 29 dB.

Version B originally had the 1K8 shunt resistor across L1 and the 10K + 0.1 uF AC feedback arm just like version A and I measured a return loss of 22 dB. I stuck in 2 tweaking potentiometers (did not bother tweaking the the emitter series feedback element). After pot tweaking, the best return loss I could obtain with 5% tolerance resistors was 23 dB and this probably represents what the average builder will obtain. An S22 of - 22 to -23 dB works fine for the QRP work bench.

If you don't plan to do any potentiometer tweaking, I recommend building circuit A since it has a little more gain due to the slightly higher shunt resistor, and also I built 3 versions of Version A with an S22 of -22 dB or higher.

PART 4: Temperature Compensation

Before temperature compensation, my VCO slowly drifted down in frequency and was unusable.

If you look through the Ham Radio VFO/VCO literature, you will see that many builders use polystyrene caps as the Colpitt's capacitors, and/or in parallel with other NP0/C0G tuning capacitors. Negative temperature compensation caps like an N750, or the polystyrene types temperature compensated the oscillator. Negative temperature co-efficient caps are hard to obtain for many builders; especially in small quantities, however, they are worth their weight in gold.

Diode Compensation

Stabilize your VCO as much as possible with compensating capacitors and by following prudent temperature stability techniques before adding diode compensation. See the VFO 2011 web page and EMRFD. Temperature compensation is best performed in a homebrew oven (see EMRFD) and normally takes an incredible amount of time and patience.

Temperature compensating diodes are far from static — a diodes temperature co-efficient is dynamic and may vary with current and also unfortunately, with temperature and even while tuning your VCO !

Above — Simplistic diode temperature compensensation schemes.

The late, great, Doug DeMaw advocated sticking a 2N3904 or 2N2222a (wired as a diode) between the control potentiometer and the varactor decoupling network since the forward biased P-N junction exhibits a negative temperature co-efficient and should stop the decrease in frequency. It can help, however, as you tune and swing the control DC voltage from minimum to maximum the forward bias on the diode increases and the diode temperature coefficient decreases.

I've never had success using a transistor in this way; the BJT caused the VCO frequency to increase in an erratic manner that varied along with the DC control voltage. When watching drift in a frequency counter set to sample every second or so, a stable design will slowly change frequency in 1 or occasionallly 2 Hertz increments — some people call this "linear drift". if you see your VCO dropping down frequency in 10 - 20 Hertz jumps per second, you'll have a bad time temperature compensating.

I experimented with the above 3 designs that keep a constant current on the diode. Figures A and B work. I tried both and confirmed that a given diode compensated slightly differently when in circuit A or B. This gives you a bit of a tweaking room for your chosen compensation diode. I tried Figure C, but it had too much negative temperature coefficient and sent the VCO drifting upward about 1-2 Hertz each second.

I settled on circuit A and then tried some diodes: the initial best was a grubby old Germanium from my junk box. The best choice turned out to be a Schottky barrier rectifier (1N5818). I connected the VCO to a receiver and could listen to CW QSOs without groaning. My VCO now drifted up in linear, 1 Hertz hops at about 105 Hz per hour. It took a long time to tack solder in and wait 10 or 15 minutes for each diode to stablize before I finally settled on the 1N5818.

The better solution is to choose a suitable diode and vary its current to tweak the temperature compensation. Wes did this in EMRFD Figure 4.33.

Advanced designs may use a reference voltage + a temperature dependent voltage that is applied to op-amps in a proportional way to temperature compensate the DC control voltage. Then, too, some builders ovenize their VCO container to maintain a very stable environmental temperature.

Above — A simple and elegant diode compensation scheme proposed by Ken Kuhn. Basically, it lets you tweak the degree of compensation to what is really needed rather than accept what you get from a diode. Adding more diodes will increase the effect — but the 1.2 K resistor should be increased accordingly to roughly match the overall voltage drop of the diodes. Hopefully there is a point on the 1K potentiometer where temperature compensation can be very good at a tuning point of interest. The diodes should be located to thermally match the rest of the oscillator circuitry.

Set the band edge after finding the sweet spot on the 1K potentiometer since it will affect the tuning frequency. This experimental circuit cannot be casually copied and it took a while to converge to the desired operating point on the 1K potentiometer. Generally you start with the 1K pot towards the 1.2 K resistor and then adjust for the best stability after warm-up. Then repeat and adjust as necessary over time.

Temperature compensatiing an oscillator like this is a challenge as all parts have some temperature drift and it takes a lot of measurements (and often, some dumb luck) to determine the overall compensation curve that is needed.

My 1 hour drift up in frequency is now ~ 60 Hertz per hour at various tuning frequencies across the tuning range. I stuck with the 1N5818 diode, and probably should have tried other diodes and also changed the 1K2 resistor to observe any effects, however, I have spent an inordinate amount of time on this circuit and leave it to others, or future bench work to improve. See QRP — Posdata below.

Above — Version C of the VCO. When I built the first versions, I drilled a hole to accomodate a third potentiometer, but filled it with a LED holder that was temperature sealed with epoxy glue. The 1K pot just fit into my chassis.


QRP— Posdata for January 2012

In late 2011, I shopped on eBay to build up a small quantity of 10 - 270 pF polystyrene, plus some 56 pF N750 ceramic temperature compensation capacitors. After 2 simple, but time-consuming experiments, I temperature stablized my 7 MHz VCO frequency drift to under 10 Hz per hour in the relatively constant temperature of our basement.

I didn't feel like re-doing the whole resonator circuit and thus focused on the tank to FET coupling capacitor. Placing a N750 capacitor in parallel with a fixed NP0/C0G cap to make 100 pF resulted in over-compensation and no amount of tweaking on the "adjustable diode" circuit worked. A few hours late, I swapped in a 100 pF polystyrene capacitor and after further hours of waiting and tweaking, I nailed the frequency stability sought.

An oven provides the best way to temperature compensate, however, whether you choose the oven method, or the bench method like I did, great patience is required to see if a change to your TC circuitry works or not.

Above — Final version of the 7 MHz VCO. I changed the 100 pF capacitor coupling the JFET to the resonator circuitry from C0G to polystyrene and slowly tweaked the 1K temperature compensation pot to find the point of convergence.

Above — The ~1 hour drift after a 30 minute warmup period for the 7 MHz VCO. Love this.

Above — My new temperature compensation capacitor parts drawer. I'll keep an eye out for further bargain temperature compensation parts on eBay and at Ham Radio festivals.


Fearless Leader and Hero    Храбрый вождь и герой


Above —  Professor Vasily Ivanenko (Васи́лий Иване́нко), fearless leader (ТЫ МОЙ ГЕРОЙ)

He's my hero because he's humble, fallible, well-intentioned and moral. Professor Ivanenko lives for learning — fame is filler — hollow and distracting. His current ego lags his voltage by 90 degrees. Is he part inductor / part human?

Miscellaneous Photos and circuits


Above — 3 types of adapters. A BNC male to SMA female, a BNC male to PL-259, and a BNC female to S0-239 allow the RF modules to be connected to a variety of equipment.

Click