The Smith chart is a tool used a lot by professional RF engineers for solving transmission line stub matching problems and all sorts of quick calculations.
The Smith chart can also be used for quick back of the envelope L and T antenna tuner engineering calculations.
I have on the picture above plotted a T configuration antenna tuner with the first capacitor set to a so big value that it is shorted as seen by the RF voltage (large C – low |Z|). Then the configuration becomes a L tuner in practice with a shunt L followed by a series C when seen from the load in towards the generator.
I measured the Z in the shack end of the ladder line feeding my doublet antenna to be Z = (24.1 – j35) ohms at 14.200 MHz by a Vector Network analyzer. That can be plotted as a point in the lower part of the Smith chart (capacitive Z).
(1) Since we have now first an inductor (in the tuner to ground) as observed from the load towards the generator, we can use this inductance to move along a constant Conductance curve in the Y plane (upwards in the Z plane). The conductance is constant but the Susceptance varies. (We remember from the RF engineering classes at engineering school that Y = 1/Z – of course).
(2) Then we use a series capacitor to move down inside the 1.25:1 SWR circle. We dont have to hit the center because anything inside the inner 1.25:1 circle is good enough. (We move while the R part of R + jX is constant, while the X part is changing to become more negative. This means we move on a constant resistance circle in the Z plane).
Determination of component values can be done easily by hand in a tool like this while still retaining an intuitive understanding of what is going on.
Black magic! Especially with a digital smith Chart tool.
My old vertical tuner can’t withstand QRO power levels as the tuner is limited to approx 150W. I am therefore working on a new multiband vertical for QRO operation. Its best to try to be finished before winter sets in(soon approaching as I write this blog post). Instead of using traps, I will tune the antenna like a Marconi type antenna over a ground plane with switchable or tunable L/C networks down at the feed point. The challenge with multiband antennas that is going to cover all the 40, 30, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12 and 10m bands, is that there will be frequency ranges where the real impedance is very high. A high real impedance is not possible to tune out with L or C and also difficult to match with a L network. It can be fed and matched with a tapped parallel network, but there will be high voltages present and vacuum capacitors will be needed for QRO operation. L networks are easier on most bands and I try to use only one HV capacitor in one parallel network for 18 MHz (at least that is the plan). The trick is to have a proper length radiator that is tuned so that the impedance peaks will lay outside the ham bands of use. At least one band will have high impedance, but it should be possible to have fairly low impedance above that band. I did a 4NEC numeric antenna simulation to investigate the expected impedance range before sizing the radiator in the real life. What to look for is the zero phase transitions (look at the pink curve above). The first zero phase transition is the quarter wave resonant point simulated in 4NEC to be around 8,5 MHz. The next zero phase transition is around 17 MHz. This is the half wave resonant point. The impedance is very high at this frequency. Then there is a zero phase transition around 25,5 MHz. This is the 3/2 lambda resonant point. Here the impedance is low again. From the simulation graph it can be seen that 7, 10, 14, 21, 24 and 28 MHz will be possible to match with a L network. 18 MHz will have to be voltage fed because the impedance is very high.
To verify the simulations made with the Numerical Electromagnetic Code (4NEC) simulator I did some vector network analyzer measurements in the feed point end of the self supporting fiberglass mast that supports the vertical. The VNA S11 plot can be seen on the PC. The VNA unit is placed inside the tuner enclosure. (The ground plane is buried and is relatively extensive). The impedance peak of the half wave resonant point can be seen on the PC. However, there were some unexpected effects that affected the VNA measurements. I suspect that the master calibration was not good. Will have to look at that later. (The blue plastic sheet placed on the ground is laid there to be able to more comfortably work on the ground without becoming wet and dirty. The gray “ring” to the right is a concrete support for my soldering iron (ELRA ca. 1980 model still in good shape). I use a chair as a “PC support” to avoid placing the laptop on the ground. Cables to the house and control cables are routed below the surface in tubing.
PA0FRI and EA6AFJ has made some cool low power HF tube amps with the old and thrusty PL519. Here is a picture taken by EA6AFJ.
This is actually a nice amplifier that should be quite easy to build for the experienced engineer and experimenter. The benefit of using lower anode voltages is that the tank circuit capacitors can be of a low cost variable type. The PSU can also be integrated more easily in the same cabinet as the amplifier circuit. You can check out more information over at PA0FRI’s webpages: http://pa0fri.home.xs4all.nl/Lineairs/Frinear150/fri150eng.htm
The conditions lately have been very good on 20, 17, 15 and 12 meters. I have worked a lot of new stations on the HF bands above 40 lately. Finally the nice sound of a wide open high band that I remember from last time the SSN stayed above 100 is here again.
The SSN peaked above 100 between 12. and 13. April. The SFI also peaked around 14.-16. April. The K-index also stayed low and the auroral activity has been modest. Perfect settings for working DX!
Antenna: broadband vertical with computer controlled tuner. Large groundplane.
Rig: Yaesu FT-1000MP MKV