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High-Q RF Coil Construction Techniques

Serge Stroobandt, ON4AA

Copyright 2007–2016, licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

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Construction

A couple of radio amateurs have put some nice pictures on the web that result to be very instructive in explaining how to construct high-Q loading coils:

Trap coils by PA3HMP

Trap coils by PA3HMP

Home-made coil by AD5X

Home-made coil by AD5X

Brake pipe coil by ON4AEK

Brake pipe coil by ON4AEK

Copper brake pipe

Copper brake pipe

Brake pipe outer diameters
(inch) (mm)
3/16 5
1/4 6
5/16 8
3/8 10
copper-strip coilcopper-strip coil
Another rewarding approach towards reducing losses and therefore increasing Q, consists in fabricating the coil out of copper-strip material instead of round wire or copper tubing.1,2 David Knight, G3YNH, explains the details in his text about the skin and the proximity effect.

For this very same reason, copper-tape on a plastic tube is often employed in the construction of helical antennas.

Dimensions

High-Q coil inductors have something in common: the length of the coil can only be slightly longer than its diameter. In other words, high-Q coils have cube-like dimensions.

If you would like to calculate the inductance L and the quality factor Q of a coil you are about to construct, please, have a go at my on-line inductance calculator!

Silver plating

silver platingsilver plating
Copper conductors oxidise after some time. This results in a much reduced conductivity. Silver plated conductors also oxidise, however silver oxide remains highly conductive, unlike copper oxide which is highly resistive. Dirk, ON4AWU and fellow member of the OT5A contest station, developed a very interesting chemical silver plating process.

At a temperature of 20°C (293.15K), silver (Ag) has a resistivity of 15.8·10-9Ωm, which is the lowest of all metals, and a temperature coefficient of 0.0038K-1. Silver[I] oxide (Ag2O) at this temperature has a 500 times higher resistivity of 8·10-6Ωm and a temperature coefficient of 0.004620K-1.3 Nonetheless, silver[I] oxide is still considered to be a conductor, whereas both copper[I] oxide (Cu2O) and copper[II] oxide (CuO) are semiconductors at room temperature.

Metal varnish

metal varnishmetal varnish
Whether a coil inductor is silver plated or not, it is still a good idea to varnish it. Silver oxide and environmental agents with etching properties result anyhow in, respectively, lower conductivities and increased path lengths. Moreoever, cuprous or copper[I] oxide (Cu2O) forms on silver-plated copper parts exposed to moisture when the silver layer is porous or damaged; this kind of corrosion is known as «red plague».4

Since it is readily available over here in Belgium, I am using Trimetal® Steloxin metal varnish to protect all copper, brass, aluminium and silver parts of all my antennas, with good result. Only stainless steel parts can do without this protection.

References

1. David W. Knight, G3YNH. Components and materials: Part 1, From transmitter to antenna. Available at: http://www.g3ynh.info/zdocs/comps/part_1.html.

2. Rudy Severns, N6LF. Conductors for HF antennas. QEX. 2000;(6):20-29.

3. K. Chatterjee et al. Metal-to-insulator transition in silver nanolayers grown on silver oxide nanoparticles. Europhys Lett. 2004;66(4):592-598. Available at: http://www.iop.org/EJ/article/0295-5075/66/4/592/epl_66_4_592.pdf.

4. Wikipedia. Red plague. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_plague_%28corrosion%29.

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Last update: Wednesday, March 29, 2017.