One of these bands - that which covered 350-390 MHz - was understandably off-limits as there is no U.S. amateur band in this frequency range but the other two, the 2 Meter and the 1-1/4 meter (a.k.a. 222 MHz band), also covered by this radio, had poorly-filtered harmonic content: It was even possible to key up a fairly-distant UHF repeater when one keyed up on a 2 meter frequency at precisely one-third of its input frequency!
The article noted that as it was shipped, the only band that might be legally used was the 70cm band as the harmonics of the other bands weren't properly suppressed - not at all, actually... It was observed that this radio seemed to have a single low-pass filter in its transmit path that was designed to start cutting off energy in the 550-575 MHz range - but this sort of filter would have no effect at all on the 2nd and 3rd harmonics on 2 meters and the 2nd harmonic on 222 MHz - which was the problem.
Besides just being cheap, one reason why someone might have been attracted to this radio is its ability to operate in the 222 MHz band - and paying $75 or so for a radio that could only do 222 MHz would be a reasonable thing to do - so what about making some sort of low-pass filter that would kill two birds with one stone: Allow legal operation on both 2 meters and 222 MHz without having to switch filters?
Designing the filter:
Curious to see if this could be done I fired up the Elsie program, a software tool that is free for "student", non-commercial use (aren't we all students in this world?). Designing a filter that would both adequately attenuate 2 meter's 2nd harmonics (288-296 MHz) and pass 222-225 MHz would require at least a slight amount of complexity, I went to work.
Knowing that a simple Butterworth or Chebychev filter would never meet the need for "sharpness", I immediately picked a Cauer (a.k.a. "Elliptical") low-pass filter design and plugged in the numbers, coming up with this:
While I needed "only" 40dB to make this radio "clean enough" it is often the case that real-world filters aren't quite as good as their simulated counterparts, so I inputted 50dB into the program as the minimum attenuation. If you look closely, you'll see that at the top of the flat part - just before it "rolls off" - the attenuation at 232 MHz, comfortably above the 222 MHz band - is just under 1dB while there is a deep "notch" at around 290 MHz - which is right where the 2nd harmonics of the 2 meter band will lie. If this filter was, in fact, "build-able", it would neatly solve the problem of the harmonics from the 2 meter and 222 MHz bands.
When it came to filter types I had two more choices: A capacitor-input low-pass filter and an inductor-input low-pass filter. Both are theoretically equal in performance, but because the capacitor input version had 7 capacitors and the inductor input version had just 3 capacitors, I chose the latter: Anyway, inductors - which are just a few turns of wire - cost practically nothing to make and are easily adjusted!
Being familiar with VHF/UHF construction techniques, I knew, when I saw the inductor values, that they would be easy to make. For example, when 20 AWG wire was wound on a 3/16" (4.76mm) diameter drill bit with very short leads, you can expect that something along the lines of:
- 20-30nH: 2 turns
- 30-40nH: 3 turns
- 40-50nH: 4 turns
If one is constructing this using only small, surface-mount components the self inductance and stray capacitance of these tiny components on a well-designed board can almost be ignored at these frequencies - but I was going to use plain, old through-hole leaded disk ceramic capacitors, which would require a bit of consideration.
A good example of this would be in the first series-resonant section of the above filter - in the section marked "531.581M". As you can guess, this is a series-tuned circuit that must be resonated at that frequency using components of the approximate values shown. Practically speaking, in this application one can "fudge" a bit on the values, so rather than trying to find a precision capacitor of about 17.5pF, I simply pulled a 18pF unit out of my capacitor bin with the idea that I would select the inductance to make it resonate somewhere in the area of 531 MHz.
But, there's a twist: Noticing that resonating inductance is ideally 5.1nH, one may realize that even a rather short length of wire has a similar amount of inductance - and that is exactly what was done: The capacitor's own lead - about 4 millimeters of it - plus the series inductance of the capacitor itself was enough to create a resonant circuit at the desired frequency.
What it takes to build this filter:
As you may have gathered, it is simply not possible to build this filter with some sort of test equipment at hand - and I used a spectrum analyzer with a tracking generator as I was building it. In short, here's what I had to do:
- Fuss with the series L/C circuits to get the stated series resonant frequencies as indicated by deep notches on the sweep.
- Stretch/compress/adjust the other inductors as necessary to minimize the loss below the cut-off frequency
- Go back to the first step and keep doing it until it makes no difference.
Amazingly, the filter went together without too much trouble with the test equipment indicating less than 1dB of insertion loss at either 2 meters or 222 MHz. The hastily-kludged prototype looks like this:
Figure 3 shows the prototype, constructed on a small piece of copper-clad circuit board material. The input/output connections were made via some N connectors that were pre-attached to UT-141 rigid PTFE coaxial cable and were used because they were on-hand. As can be seen in the (somewhat blurry) picture the junctions where the series L/C portions were attached are held off the ground plane with a small piece of circuit board while the attaching hardline's center conductors supported the in/out inductors. Also apparent is what looks like haphazard stretching/compressing of the various inductors to achieve the resonant frequencies for the three elements - which I marked on the board.
Once I connected it to a transmitter, I did a bit of final tweaking, "adjusting" the series coils for minimum loss on both 2 meters and 222 MHz but leaving the "notch" adjustments alone: Only slight adjustments were needed.
Can I make such a filter?
Yes, you can - if you are familiar with VHF/UHF circuit techniques and have access to a spectrum analyzer with a tracking generator or some sort of equivalent.
If you don't have access to this sort of gear - and you don't know anyone else who does - then it is (unfortunately) not possible to properly "tweak" this filter for both harmonic attenuation and also to make its insertion loss and added VSWR low enough to both allow transmit power to pass through it without damaging the radio.
(And no, I won't build one for you... Remember: It's a $75 radio!)
Does it work:
Amazingly enough, it works pretty much as predicted!
The measured insertion loss was under half a dB: With 25 watts into the filter, around 20 watts exited on both 2 meters and 222 MHz - hardly enough loss to worry about on receive or transmit. After about a minute of solid key-down at 25 watts input the filter's components were barely warm - lower than body temperature in a "not hot/not cold" room.
The real test was to put the filter inline and check it again on the spectrum analyzer - and the plots below show the results for 2 meters:
And here is the result from the 222 MHz band:
As can be seen, the harmonics and other spurious signals are all but undetectable!
"Sweeping" the filter:
Curious as to how the actual attenuation curve of the filter looks? Figure 6, below, shows its response over the frequency range of 100 through 400 MHz.
As can be seen, the "depth" of the low-pass filter is at least 40dB, but where the first "null" is located (which happens to be around the frequencies of 2 meter 2nd harmonics) the depth is much greater.
As expected, the simulated filter's ">=50dB" attenuation above the designed cut-off frequency wasn't quite met (likely due to the physical layout of the filter - not to mention the difference between simulated and real-world components) but it is more than capable of rendering this radio "legal" when it is operating on the 2 meter and 222 MHz bands.
Using such a filter:
Some time in the near future it is likely that this page will show a version of this filter that is built into a small box with UHF connectors which will allow the radio to be used legally on either 2 meters or 222 MHz by U.S. amateurs - but having this filter inline precludes its use on 70cm: To do that, the filter would have to be manually removed.
If that is the case, one would consider this to be a "2 band" radio - and for around $75, it would to OK - aside from the possible tendency for its receiver to overload from nearby signals.
What about automatically switching the filter?
In theory, it should be possible to build into the filter a "bypass" circuit using some UHF-rated relays.
In poking about inside the radio I quickly found a circuit that was powered on only when the UHF (400 MHz) band was selected - and this could be used to "key" a relay to bypass such a filter. In reality one would want to design such switching so that when the relay was un-powered, the filter would be bypassed, but when the radio was powered up and not on UHF, use the absence of the aformentioned signal to pull in the relays in insert the filtering.
If we decide to do this, I'll post it here - but at some point, trying to make this radio do what it should have been capable of doing by design becomes an exercise of "turd polishing" when the time and money spent exceeds the gain. Then again, the effort is sometimes worth the journey if the goal is to build and learn something!
This page stolen from ka7oei.blogspot.com