#AMRAD Low Frequency Web Page
**NEW ITEMS TO CHECK OUT:**
* [AMRAD Presentation on LF Impedance Measurement, HFC2002, London England, 12 OCT 2002](ImpedanceMeter.pdf) (pdf)
* [AMRAD Remote Receiver Paper](amradio.pdf) (pdf)
* [Larry Kayser's, PIC Program](PIC8_4B.ASM) .ASM file
* [AMRAD Comments on FCC LF Allocation Notice of Proposed Rule Making RM-9404](NPRMComments.pdf) (pdf)
* [CEPT draft recommendation on LF allocation to Radio Amateurs](CEPT-LF.pdf) (pdf)
* [AMRAD LF Upconverter makes April, 2002 QST, Errata Note](UPERR.pdf) (pdf)
* [AMRAD Active LF Antenna](actant) September 2001 QST, Notes.
* [Digital Modulator](DIGITALMODULATOR.PDF) (pdf) Future LF Design?
* [Digital Amplifier](DIGITALAMPLIFIER.PDF) (pdf) Future LF Design?
##WHAT IS LF?
LF stands for Low Frequency,
that portion of the RF spectrum extending from 30 through 300 kHz. In Europe,
where there are numerous broadcast transmitters between 150 and 250 kHz, it is
often called ``Long Wave''. Under ideal conditions in mid-winter the high power
European broadcast transmitters can be heard on the U.S. East coast.
In the United States, users of the LF band
include the US Navy, WWVB, LowFERs between 160 and 190 kHz (Longwave Home Page and Longwave Club of America Home Page)
LowFERs are limited to one watt and a 15 meter antenna under FCC part 15. They
have demonstrated some amazing ranges under what would appear to be very
restrictive rules. Check out these web pages to see what they are able to do.
The Longwave Club of America publishes an interesting and informative
newsletter LOWDOWN. A serious LF person should subscribe to be sure not to miss
new and important information on the LF scene.
The electric power companies also transmit
signals on the power lines at those frequencies. Their signals are called Power
Line Carriers (PLC) and use the power lines to conduct the signals. Some
unintended radiation occurs and when listening at the noise threshold of LF
these can be heard as modulated and unmodulated carriers. When using a mobile
LF receiving setup you can hear these PLCs come way up in strength as you pass
near or under long distance power transmission lines. The power companies never
applied for or received FCC licenses for this operation. Now with the potential
for amateur allocations, power companies are voicing some concern on the
potential for interference with their systems.
Starting at 200 kHz up to around 420 kHz
Non-Directional Beacons (NDB) dot the North American continent. NDBs are
located at or near many airports to aid navigation using direction finders on
the aircraft. These signals are a good first test of LF receiving systems and
can challenge listeners to see how far away they can be heard. Inland NDBs run
around 200 watts with a simple Marconi antenna. NDBs on the end of a chain at
the coastal edge can run 2.5 kW to reach further out to sea.
Operation on LF presents
unusual challenges (read ``problems''). The wavelength at 187 kHz is 1 mile,
and a quarter wave is 1,320 feet! It gets worse. At 137 kHz where the
wavelength becomes 1.3 miles and a quarter wave vertical would reach up 1800
feet. Worse yet at 76 kHz the wavelength is 2.46 miles.
Hence for those of you interested in building
your own equipment, getting the maximum out of necessarily inefficient
antennas, using DSP to fight man-made noise, LF is a wonderful place to
experiment. If you wonder why LF we can argue the need for a pool of trained LF
engineers and listeners for "national" needs such as was needed at HF
in WW2. Very Interesting indeed. Who will build LF systems in the future? **You**, perhaps.
##LF TRANSMITTING ANTENNAS:
##LF RECEIVING ANTENNAS:
Many people use active antennas, while others prefer ferrite bars, or remotely tuned whips.
LF frequencies, traditional antennas of acceptable length exhibit
efficiencies well below 0.1% (yes, one tenth of 1%); hence the search is
on for improving traditional antennas, and finding possibly new
configurations that may yield better efficiency. AMRAD is looking for ways
to build efficient antennas with common materials on a typical radio
amateur suburban/urban lot. The search continues.
has built a 1500 foot long bipole antenna. This is a wire that goes
through the woods and is connected on one end to a 300 foot steel well
casing and a ground rod in lake on the other. It is tuned to resonance
with two large coils near the ends and a ferrite toroid transformer gets
it all to 50 ohms for the transmitter. Initially it was not strong back
here in the Washington DC area. But now it looks like the signal is pretty
good further out. It may favor sky wave to ground wave. Recent results
have been good with reception into London, Ontario Canada by Mitch Powell
VE3OT. His zipped .wav file can be downloaded here. Note that it is almost 750k. This reception is
about 324 miles or 521 km. Closer in we have reception confirmed from
Steve Dove W3EEE/G3YDV at Mt. Gretna PA.
built a small Marconi antenna with only a single wire in the top hat. It
is 30 feet high with a 50 foot long top hat. It does not work real well.
We will look at adding more top hat wires. The tuner is built with
Walmart/Kmart plastic storage boxes as the coil forms.
built a vertical loop with mixed results. More refinement to reduce
resistance losses are being contemplated. "Zip wire ain't efficient
you need a field strength meter to measure and adjust LF antennas take a
look here: PA0SE Field strength meter for the 137
Transmitters can be either
very efficient switchers or audio amplifiers with bandwidth extending to 200
Khz or beyond. Glenn KA0ESA and Andr� N4ICK are busy building such
contraptions. AMRAD purchased and has tested a commercial transmitter made in
Holland. See a review here.
##LF SIGNAL PROPAGATION:
LF signals can propagate by
ground wave or by sky wave. Most studies on LF propagation have concentrated on
the ground wave mode and little data and analysis exist on sky wave
propagation. J.S. Belrose et al presented data on LF skywave propagation in the
Proceedings of the IEEE in May of 1959. This paper seems to be the best source
of data on the subject. AMRAD is looking at acquiring data on European LF
broadcast stations to help engineer the system necessary to achieve a
transatlantic QSO on LF. Some early data has been collected by Sandy, WB5MMB
and is shown
Note the abrupt drop in signal level around 0700 GMT
which corresponds with sunrise in the area of the transmitter. We are curious
to know what other phenomena might be exploited to achieve a transatlantic QSO.
W3CSW has been building some attic loops antennas rotated with syncros and
remotely tuned with a capacitor decade box. You can read about it here.
simplest and quite effective LF antenna is the E-Field probe. It is
essentially a short whip with a very high impedance amplifier at the base
to convert the signal impedance to the coaxial cable impedance. To this
day Ralph Burhans wrote the best information. It appeared in the magazine
Radio-Electronics over the months of March, April, May and June of 1983.
Our local library central library in Fairfax Virginia has these on
microfilm. Other large public and university libraries as well as
old-timer basements should also have these magazines. The effort to find
them is well worth it. These antennas work well today and Ralph Burhans
imparts a lot of good wisdom on the whys and wherefores of LF receiving
member Andre' N4ICK has a nifty design that combines an E-Field probe and
varactor tuned preamp to limit overload by strong stations. You can see
his work here. N4ICK LF preamp
addition, an isolation transformer between the LF receiving antenna and
the shack with the receiver is needed to limit the AC powerline currents
flowing into the antenna ground system. If powerline noise and trash are
made to flow in the antenna ground they will couple into the electric
field around the antenna and thusly into the antenna signal. Once
corrupted, it is difficult to remove and can reduce receiving sensitivity
by may decibels. No good LF receiving station should be without one. AMRAD
has built some and a description of how to build one is here.
signals can be copied using narrower bandwidths than customary on HF.
500 Hz is considered narrow on HF we could copy really weak signals on LF
with bandwidths well below 100 Hz and even below 10 Hz under some
LF hams have been using slow CW (QRS) with speeds like 3 seconds for a dot
which would result in 9 seconds for a dash.
in the United States have perfected narrowband forms of binary phase shift
keying (BPSK) and have demonstrated automated detection sometimes taking
all night to recover a weak signal.
All these narrowband modes
can make good use of computer signal processing. This can use either a general
purpose PC with sound card software or a more special purpose Digital Signal
Processor (DSP). The DSP chips are much simpler than a PC while being much more
powerful having been optimized from the ground up for signal processing.
Several AMRAD members are working on DSP to include Bob WA3WDR and Dave K8MMO.
Bob provided some insight in his fine AMRAD article here.
For an excellent example of DSP reception see
image of frequency vs. time plot for commercial LF station
DBF39. (From Marco Bruno - IK1ODO
) Also check out our trip to Nags Head NC
and some of the spectrograms we got there.
Work by AMRAD Members Bill Farmer W3CSW (with
Frank Gentges K0BRA and Andre N4ICK looking over his shoulder) on using the
RX320 along with a DSP program has resulted in a calibrated frequency accuracy
of about 1 hertz on the DSP spectrogram. This work has combined the use of Gerd
Neiphaus' program GNRX320 and the PADEN DSP program Spectran. This has turned out to be
a powerful LF weak signal monitoring set up. Bill was able to discriminate
between two beacons running on almost the same frequencies. A screen capture
can be seen here.
The procedure for getting this accuracy is provided here.
Argo/Spectran/Jason Authors Alberto
di Bene, I2PHD and Vittorio De Tomasi. IK2CZL have a lot of further
improvements planned so stay tuned to their web site as these changes start
showing up so we have seen nothing yet. See our journey to Nags Head NC
where we used this setup extensively and it was a delight.
References: must reading, from cover to
cover, the RSGB's **``The LF Sourcebook''** and Ken Cornell W2IMB's **The Low and
Medium Frequency Radio Scrapbook**. Ken Cornell passed away recently and the
availability of his book is limited.
##WHAT IS AMRAD DOING?
Click on these links for images of early AMRAD LF experiments:
##WHAT ARE THE EUROPEANS AND AUSTRALIANS DOING?
members Sandy, WB5MMB and Hal, WB3KDU went to the mountains to see if they
could copy the New Years day transmission from SAQ at Grimeton Sweden. SAQ
uses the last existing Alexanderson alternator to generate the VLF signal
at 17.2 kHz. They copied the signal with a 40 foot mast and 4 40 foot
ground radials for an antenna. A hombrew upconverter was used ahead of an
Icom R71A with a 500 Hz CW filter. The transmission was logged at 1:00 AM
EST on 2 January. The location was N38-59-06 W78-00-00 on ridge about
1000' above the valley and 1/4 or more miles from nearest house or power line.
You can hear how they did here with their 700k zipped .wav file.
has been coordinating with European Radio Amateurs on LF and is
co-sponsoring the LF Transatlantic Challenge with the Bobek
applied for and received an experimental FCC Part 5 license to operate at
1 watt EIRP on 136.750 Khz. Details are announced at WA2XTF
LF transmissions continue. See our recent DSP Integration work above.
went to Nags Head, NC to see how LF listening might be right on the beach.
See Field test in January 1999 for more
returned to Nags Head NC over the weekend of January 16, 2000. See our
Nags Head 2000 web page for more information.
returned still again to Nags Head NC and Burke Lake Park VA over 12-15
January, 2001. See our Nags Head 2001 web page for more
had the opportunity to connect to an unused Navy LF Marconi antenna at
Annapolis MD. See our Photos from trip
to NSS Annapolis. These Navy antennas were no longer needed so they
were demolished with high explosives. Some sad pictures were taken. See Demolition of three antennas November 13,
##JOIN AMRAD'S EFFORTS
Americans have been extremely creative to extract
the last drop of energy available to them within the harsh limitations of the
Part 15 rules. Now with higher power radio amateurs have the potential to open
up new applications and to exploit propagation phenomena that Part 15 rules
would not allow. How about you?
Me, the reader of this page? Moi? Yes, You !
Why not getting involved in LF? Instead of
using your 2-meter hand-held to discuss the road traffic that you encountered
on the way home, how about helping on the LF scene? If you can distinguish what
is the business end of a soldering iron, or if you are good at writing in
Pascal or C, how about sending us a short e-mail telling us about your
capabilities? We need help in converters, receivers, transmitters, baluns, DSP,
receiving and transmitting antennas and new ideas and concepts in general.
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we promise we will write
back to you.
You can also write to each of us individually
by using our individual email@example.com for example firstname.lastname@example.org
##OTHER LINKS OF INTEREST
British, The Radio Society of Great
Germans, the Swiss and the Australians, to name but a few, are doing great
things on LF.
European countries have been authorizing radio amateur allocations on LF.
QSOs spanning 1,000 miles have taken place recently in Europe with
transmitter powers of between 250 and 700 watts, yielding ERPs around 500
an example of a European radio amateur QSO on LF see a DSP display of a European amateur contact in progress
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