Category Archives: Radio

Long Loopstick AM Radio Antenna

Wound on a 3 foot length of PVC pipe, the long loopstick antenna was an experiment to try to improve AM radio reception without using a long wire or ground. It works fairly well and greatly improved reception of a weak station 130 miles away. A longer rod antenna will probably work better if space allows. The number of turns of wire needed for the loopstick can be worked out from the single layer, air core inductance formula:

Inductance = (radius^2 * turns^2) / ((9*radius)+(10*length))

where dimensions are in inches and inductance is in microhenrys. The inductance should be about 230 microhenrys to operate with a standard AM radio tuning capacitor (33-330 pF). The 3 foot PVC pipe is wound with approximately 500 evenly spaced turns of #24 copper wire which forms an inductor of about 170 microhenrys, but I ended up with a little more (213uH) because the winding spacing wasn’t exactly even. A secondary coil of about 50 turns is wound along the length of the pipe on top of the primary and then connected to 4 turns of wire wound directly around the radio. The windings around the radio are orientated so that the radio’s internal antenna rod passes through the external windings. A better method of coupling would be to wind a few turns directly around the internal rod antenna inside the radio itself, but you would have to open the radio to do that. In operation, the antenna should be horizontal to the ground and at right angles to the direction of the radio station of interest. Tune the radio to a weak station so you can hear a definite amount of noise, and then tune the antenna capacitor and rotate the antenna for the best response. The antenna should also be located away from lamp dimmers, computer monitors and other devices that cause electrical interference.

Copyright 1997 Bill Bowden

Micro Power AM Broadcast Transmitter

In this circuit, a 74HC14 hex Schmitt trigger inverter is used as a square wave oscillator to drive a small signal transistor in a class C amplifier configuration. The oscillator frequency can be either fixed by a crystal or made adjustable (VFO) with a capacitor/resistor combination. A 100pF capacitor is used in place of the crystal for VFO operation. Amplitude modulation is accomplished with a second transistor that controls the DC voltage to the output stage. The modulator stage is biased so that half the supply voltage or 6 volts is applied to the output stage with no modulation. The output stage is tuned and matched to the antenna with a standard variable 30-365 pF capacitor. Approximately 20 milliamps of current will flow in the antenna lead (at frequencies near the top of the band) when the output stage is optimally tuned to the oscillator frequency. A small ‘grain of wheat’ lamp is used to indicate antenna current and optimum settings. The 140 uH inductor was made using a 2 inch length of 7/8 inch (OD) PVC pipe wound with 120 turns of #28 copper wire. Best performance is obtained near the high end of the broadcast band (1.6 MHz) since the antenna length is only a very small fraction of a wavelength. Input power to the amplifier is less than 100 milliwatts and antenna length is 3 meters or less which complies with FCC rules. Output power is somewhere in the 40 microwatt range and the signal can be heard approximately 80 feet. Radiated power output can be approximated by working out the antenna radiation resistance and multiplying by the antenna current squared. The radiation resistance for a dipole antenna less than 1/4 wavelength is

R = 80*[(pi)^2]*[(Length/wavelength)^2]*(a factor depending on the form of the current distribution) The factor depending on the current distribution turns out to be [(average current along the rod)/(feed current)]^2 for short rods, which is 1/4 for a linearly-tapered current distribution falling to zero at the ends. Even if the rods are capped with plates, this factor cannot be larger than 1. Substituting values for a 9.8 foot dipole at a frequency of 1.6 MHz we get R= 790*.000354*.25 = .07 Ohms. And the resistance will be only half as much for a monopole or 0.035 Ohms. Radiated power at 20 milliamps works out to about I^2 * R = 14 microwatts.

Reference: [url=]Radiation impedances of wire and rod antennas[/url].

Copyright 2005 Bill Bowden

Simple Op-Amp Radio

This is basically a crystal radio with an audio amplifier which is fairly sensitive and receives several strong stations in the Los Angeles area with a minimal 15 foot antenna. Longer antennas will provide a stronger signal but the selectivity will be worse and strong stations may be heard in the background of weaker ones. Using a long wire antenna, the selectivity can be improved by connecting it to one of the taps on the coil instead of the junction of the capacitor and coil. Some connection to ground is required but I found that standing outside on a concrete slab and just allowing the long headphone leads to lay on the concrete was sufficient to listen to the local news station (KNX 1070). The inductor was wound with 200 turns of #28 enameled copper wire on a 7/8 diameter, 4 inch length of PVC pipe, which yields about 220 uH. The inductor was wound with taps every 20 turns so the diode and antenna connections could be selected for best results which turned out to be 60 turns from the antenna end for the diode. The diode should be a germanium (1N34A type) for best results, but silicon diodes will also work if the signal is strong enough. The carrier frequency is removed from the rectified signal at the cathode of the diode by the 300 pF cap and the audio frequency is passed by the 0.1uF capacitor to the non-inverting input of the first op-amp which functions as a high impedance buffer stage. The second op-amp stage increases the voltage level about 50 times and is DC coupled to the first through the 10K resistor. If the pairs of 100K and 1 Meg resistors are not close in value (1%) you may need to either use closer matched values or add a capacitor in series with the 10K resistor to keep the DC voltage at the transistor emitter between 3 and 6 volts. Another approach would be to reduce the overall gain with a smaller feedback resistor (470K). High impedance headphones will probably work best, but walkman stereo type headphones will also work. Circuit draws about 10 mA from a 9 volt source. Germanium diodes (1N34A) types are available from Radio Shack, #276-1123.

Copyright 2005 Bill Bowden

AM Transmitter

Please note that it is illegal to operate a radio transmitter without a license in most countries. This circuit is deliberately limited in power output but will provide amplitude modulation (AM) of voice over the medium wave band.
The circuit is in two halfs, an audio amplifier and an RF oscillator. The oscillator is built around Q1 and associated components. The tank circuit L1 and VC1 is tunable from about 500kHz to 1600KHz. These components can be used from an old MW radio, if available. Q1 needs regenerative feedback to oscillate and this is achieved by connecting the base and collector of Q1 to opposite ends of the tank circuit. The 1nF capacitor C7, couples signals from the base to the top of L1, and C2, 100pF ensures that the oscillation is passed from collector, to the emitter, and via the internal base emitter resistance of the transistor, back to the base again. Resistor R2 has an important role in this circuit. It ensures that the oscillation will not be shunted to ground via the very low internal emitter resistance, re of Q1, and also increases the input impedance so that the modulation signal will not be shunted. Oscillation frequency is adjusted with VC1.
Q2 is wired as a common emitter amplifier, C5 decoupling the emitter resistor and realising full gain of this stage. The microphone is an electret condenser mic and the amount of AM modulation is adjusted with the 4.7k preset resistor P1.
An antenna is not needed, but 30cm of wire may be used at the collector to increase transmitter range.

AM Receiver

This is a compact three transistor, regenerative receiver with fixed feedback. It is similar in principle to the ZN414 radio IC which is now replaced by the MK484. The design is simple and sensitivity and selectivity of the receiver are good.

All general purpose transistors should work in this circuit, I used three BC549 transistors in my prototype. The tuned circuit is designed for medium wave, but the circuit will work up to much higher frequencies if a different tuning coil and capacitor are used. I used a ferrite rod and tuning capacitor from an old radio which tuned from approximately 550 – 1600kHz. Q1 and Q2 form a compund transistor pair featuring high gain and very high input impedance. This is necessary so as not to unduly load the tank circuit. Q1 operates in emitter follower, Q2 common emitter, self stabilizing bias is via the 120k resistor and the tuning coil.

The 120k resistor provides regenerative feedback,between Q2 output and the tank circuit input and its value affects the overall performance of the whole circuit. Too much feedback and the circuit will become unstable producing a “howling sound”. Insufficient feedback and the receiver becomes “deaf”. If the circuit oscillates,then R1’s value may be decreased; try 68k. If there is a lack of sensitivity, then try increasing R1 to around 150k. R1 could also be replaced by a fixed resisor say 33k and a preset resistor of 100k. This will give adjustment of sensitivity and selectivity of the receiver.

Transistor Q3 has a dual purpose; it performs demodulation of the RF carrier whilst at the same time, amplifying the audio signal. Audio level varies on the strength of the received station but I had typically 10-40 mV. This will directly drive high impedance headphones or can be fed into a suitable amplifier.

All connections should be short, a veroboard or tagstrip layout are suitable. The tuning capacitor has fixed and moving plates. The moving plates should be connected to the “cold” end of the tank circuit, this is the base of Q1, and the fixed plates to the “hot end” of the coil, the juction of R1 and C1. If connections on the capacitor are reversed, then moving your hand near the capacitor will cause unwanted stability and oscillation.

Finally here are some voltage checks from my breadboard prototype.This should help in determining a working circuit:-
All measurements made with a fresh 9volt battery and three BC109C transistors with respect to the battery negative terminal.

Q1 (b) 1.31V
Q2 (b) 0.71V
Q2 (c) 1.34V
Q3 (b) 0.62V
Q3 (c) 3.87V

1.5 Volt Tracking Transmitter

The current draw for this tracker is 3.7mA, so the 1.5V button cell will last awhile. What the heck am I suppose to hear you ask? When your circuit is working you should see the LED flash quite fast. Take your FM radio and search for the low-beat ‘humbe-humbe-humbe-etc’ equal to the flash of the LED (probably around the 100Mhz). Found it? If that position is interferering with a radio station you can fine-tune it with the variable capacitor. If you like to have the tracker around the 88Mhz you can do that by spreading the windings from the home-made coil just a bit (1/2 a millimeter or so). Anyways, play with it and learn. It is a nice project. The 12-inch antenna can be anything, it is not really that critical. I used a piece of 22 gauge flexible wire. I haven’t checked the range but will do that shortly.

* For stability, use a NPO types for C2 & C4.
* Resistance tolerance for R1 should be 1 or 2%.
* Frequency range is the usual 87-109Mhz on the FM dial.
* The coil is made from 22 ga ‘hookup’ wire, like the solid Bell phone wire. Leave the insulation on.
* The LED is the ‘High Brightness’ type for maximum illumination.Parts:C1= 100uF electrolytic capacitor
C2= .01uF disc capacitor
C3= 4 to 40 pF trimmer capacitor
C4= 4.7 pF trimmer capacitor
L1= 0.1 uH, 6 to 8 turns of 22 gauge hookup wire close wound around a 1/4″ diameter non-conductive core, such as pencil
IC1= LM3909 LED flasher
Q1= 2N3904 NPN silicon transistor
R1= 10K
Antenna= 10 to 12 inches of hookup wire