Broadband RF Field Strength Probe using Atmel AT90S1200A AVR controller

auto-zero assembly code
This broadband probe has a small antenna (about a 15 cm length of insulated wire). Radio Frequency energy coupled to the antenna is detected and made available to drive millivolt level signals to the input of a DVM (Digital Volt Meter). Its battery powered for convenience with very low current drain and automatic shutdown for long battery life.
I’ve used the circuit shown below to check the output of transmitters at 4 MHz, 35 MHz, 55 MHz, 100 MHz, 900 MHz, a cell phone, and a microwave oven. It really is broad band, though I don’t make any claims for the flatness of response. Since the collectors and emitters of the detector transistor are both at RF ground, choice of transistors isn’t all that critical. A low base-collector capacitance will enhance the VHF and UHF sensitivity. All transistors should be of the same type to minimize thermal drift. The DC gain of the detector is about 50X (estimated by multiplying the voltage drop across the collector load by 38)Assembly is not critical and mine was built on punched fiberglass board without a ground plane. The 10k pot is a rough offset adjustment. Set it for about a +50 mV offset (assuming that the one you build doesn’t experience an offset drift of more than 50 mV). Push the reset/recal button (after power is applied, of course) and the auto zero circuit will bring the offset down of a millivolt or two and turn out the LED. The meter will continue to operate for 10 to 20 minutes (depending upon actual battery voltage) before shutting itself off.
strength probe
An Atmel AT90S1200A micro controller is used to take advantage of its ability to operate with the internal clock rather than needing an external crystal. The advantages of using the internal clock over the crystal are a lower parts count, less radiated RF from the controller, and low cost. Note that the low frequency operation of several hundred kilohertz results in low power supply current demands from the controller.
The circuit is battery powered. I used two AA cells and put a power switch in series with them. The switch is only a comfort factor since the circuit has a timer that automatically shuts everything off after about 15 minutes (depends on battery voltage). When shut down, current drain drops to a few tens of micro amps. The auto-shut off feature has been well tested. In the first year since I built this, I have left with the power switch in the on position in my desk drawer while I was out of town twice, for a period of two months each time. Everything still works fine when the reset/recal button is pressed even though its still using the original pair of batteries.

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Ibrar Ayyub

I am an experienced technical writer holding a Master's degree in computer science from BZU Multan, Pakistan University. With a background spanning various industries, particularly in home automation and engineering, I have honed my skills in crafting clear and concise content. Proficient in leveraging infographics and diagrams, I strive to simplify complex concepts for readers. My strength lies in thorough research and presenting information in a structured and logical format.

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