How good are those inductors you just wound? What about those inductors you just bought from your favorite online store? Don’t know? Well knowing the Q of the part is going to help you know whether they are going to be useful in that bandpass filter or oscillator and it could not be simpler if you have a nanoVNA.
So what I have here is a T68-6 toriod with 19 turns of enamel wire on it. 19 turns gives a theoretical inductance of 1.7uH, the actual measured inductance with my cheap LCR meter is 1.747uh yeah that is surprisingly close and not something that I typically find that happens. Usually 1 or 2 turns either way is required to get to the value I want.
For this measurement you want the inductor to be in series. So you can see from the picture above my test jig the inductor goes from the center conductor to the shield of the coax.
So the most important part is how to make the measurement. First is to re-calibrate the nanoVNA for the frequency range of interest for the part. For me, Captain HF, 3 to 30Mhz is where I keep a saved calibration for. Next, the measurement is an S11 1 port measurement and the plot you require is R+jX.
So from here the math is rather simple, Q = X / Rseries for the frequency of interest. So for the above at 14Mhz, for simplicity sake lets call it Q = 200 / 1 || Q = 200. In reality the Rs is less than 1 and the X is less than 200, but thankfully NanoVnaSaver does the actual calculations for you and displays them in this case the actual Q was 150. Which is pretty damn good for a hand wound toriod inductor. Now the good thing is, you know how to measure Q and you can start checking all sorts of parts you might have sitting around.
Take these cheap ebay variable inductors as an example. I built a filter with them for 40m and it was crap. Q at 7Mhz was about 20. But at 14Mhz though to 150Mhz the Q was about 50 to 75 on average. So they would be useful to use at higher frequencies and certainly not useful at lower ones. Unless you have a datasheet that tells you what the Q is for a given frequency range is, you will never know unless you measure them.
And lets face it, measurement is king. Even a non perfect measurement with a non perfect instument like the nanVNA is vastly superior to having no measurement at all. Oh and one last nugget, now that you know the Q of your actual parts, you can then use that value in Eslie when designing filters. Being able to measure things can really improve everything you do.
Many pieces of test gear required quite low input levels, in many cases that is 0dBm (0.001W) or less. So what do you do then if you want to characterize the bandwidth of an amplifier that is putting out say a couple of volts peak to peak? You can hope like hell that you do not blow the front end out of your test gear like that expensive spectrum analyzer, you could use an attenuator, but that is going to be limiting as power levels go up beyond a few watts, or you can use a RF sampler of some kind.
Now there are some pretty fancy RF taps and samplers out there costing many hundreds or even thousands of dollars and quite frankly while not out of my budget, buying a second hand tap off an ebay seller for a few hundred bucks to use on my spectrum analyzer that cost a few hundred bucks, seems like overkill to me.
An RF sampler is not a very difficult item to construct at home, a bunch of resistors and maybe a DC blocking cap and Bob is your mothers sisters brother. Sure there are other methods and I know that the fan boys will be frothing at the mouth about using a ferrite toroid and how they are superior hams because one time they bought a resistor yada yada yada, you know the instant internet types.
Anyway, I settled on the resistor divider method with a bit of series and parallel magic and some 1 watt resistors and the magic of the resistor divider not dissipating all the power you get a pretty low cost way of sampling higher powers and the ability to set the amount of attenuation by paying with the resistor values.
Here is the circuit that i designed in my ecad to make a pcb board.
The astute will notice that I am not using the same value resistors on this board as in the schematic, turns out i used the footprint for the 1w resistors that I have and well had to use 1/2w 1500 ohms instead. The value is kind of non critical anyway it just changed the amount of attenuation.
And finally, here is a S21 gain plot for the HF ham bands. Not quite linear, but -45 to 47dB. Good enough for the kinds of girls I go out with. And its something I will be using quite a bit as I also have a test board I had made so I can test some parts out to see how they perform. First one will be an high bandwidth op amp that might be suitable to use an an IF Amp stage. More on that soon.
So long story. I have had some trouble getting the Nano VNA to hold a calibration and display the correct information. I always had a -10db offset when using certain SMA leads i had there. It would display fine with semi rigid SMA leads, but, others would show -10db. Like the leads had loss in them.
Well anyway, I think i have resolved the issue and got the calibration right. 0.5db loss in my leads would be about right and that is what is showing now, they are after all cheapest crap leads from China, not high end leads you would use in a lab.
So anyway, popper calibration procedure.
Open: Open Load on S11 port.
Short: Short load on S11 port.
Load: 50 ohm load on S11 port.
Isolation: 50 ohm load on both S11 and S21 ports.
Through: Shortest high quality 50 ohm cable connecting S11 and S21 together.
Then save that. That is it, that should then give you fairly accurate, well as accurate as the NANO VNA is results. As you can see by the plot of a 40m bandpass filter above, it looks about what you would expect from a known design that has low insertion loss. A couple of dB, made up of the lead loss and the filter loss. This means my filter has about 1dB insertion loss. That is something I can live with.
Anyway, through no fault of my own, I broke the mini USB socket off the original NANO VNA i bought and tore the tracks off the board. Yeah not really happy with myself but it is what it is. So i bought another one, this time it seems to be one of the better clones, it even came with shielding and a battery. So anyway, i plan this time to ruggedise my NANO VNA and mount the whole think into an aluminium box, and have an panel mount USB port on the side that will take the abuse of me pulling and stretching and inserting a lead in and out on a regular basis. So i ordered one of these as well, yeah the new VNA came with USB type C not that stupid micro USB rubbish. Anyway, by the time i mount this in a box, i will never have to worry about breaking the damn socket off the board again.
Did some dicking about with the VNA today and tested the rf coupler i built. Not sure how i interpret the data, but i have it LOL
The through port return loss. I figure what this means is from 1 to 100meg the through port has a quite flat frequency response.
Port Isolation. I figure what this means is i have a coupling factor of say -18db or near enough. I might have to rebuild it with some more turns, I was looking for at least 30.
I build this the other day also after making the new dummy loads. So much test gear so little time LOL.