Simple negative resistance oscillators

Normally -according to the Ohm's law- when the applied voltage is increasing, the current is increasing too, however some components can break this law. When the voltage increases, current decreases. This is called negative resistance.

One of the most know element that exhibits this behavior is a tunnel diode. Once very promising, today it isn't widely used in popular designs and occupies a niche in microwave applications. It's a bit challenging to get one, fortunately simple circuits that have negative resistance feature can be build from popular discrete elements. One of them I will present today.

The circuit is so called "negistor" - a regular npn transistor connected in a way that the base is not connected at all, and collector-emiter junction is polarized in reverse direction. The generator that uses negative resistance is presented below, and consists of R1, C1 and T1, the voltage when it works is between 9-12V, R2, C2 are used to block DC voltage, D1 is used to indicate if the generator works. T1 works as the negistor.

It's worth noticing that the tunnel diode works due to a quantum effect called quantum tunelling, I'm not exactly sure if the negistor works also due to it.

Below you can see the voltage on the TP1 (test point), on the first image the scope was is in DC coupled mode, on the second in AC coupled mode.

Other configurations od the oscillators based on the negistors can be found on Alan's blog.

Another circuit that also exhibits negative resistance region is a lambda diode. While P-JFETs aren't widely popular, it's possible to replace it by an npn transistor, as presented in this article. An interesting oscillator based on the lambda diode is presented here.

The idea of a negative resistance is something very interesting and it's worth to take a look on it. Another fascinating and simple generator is a Joule thief but this is a topic for another post.

Raspberry Pi 3 used as environment radioactivity monitoring station

Recently I've found Pi-GI, it's an open source project of a radiation monitoring system based on Raspberry Pi, and (open source hardware) Geiger-Muller detector. Statistics are available through a web page, so it's possible to use it conveniently on a PC, tablet or a phone. It's written in python.

Today I will present how I've glued together this software and my Geiger-Muller counter described in my previous posts.

Below is a circuit of my counter, it uses 5V power supply and draws a couple of mA, so it's possible to power it directly from Raspberry. Since originally I've used three tubes in parallel, I had to remove two of them to not have values multiplied by three - most of the detectors and software for them uses only one tube.

Raspberry Pi requires 3V3 logic on GPIO ports, fortunately, that's not a problem here, pin 3 of SV3 socket just needs to be connected to 3V3 rail on the Raspberry Pi. The output (pin 2 of the same socket) needs to be connected to one of the GPIO pins. It's a bit confusing, because on the webpage the circuit states that GPIO0 is used, but in the current version of the software GPIO4 is used instead. The pin can be configured in software by editing gpio_port variable in PiGI/software/conf/default.cfg

Software installation and configuration is presented in this article, in addition, because I use STS-5 tubes, I had to change the tube type in PiGI/software/conf/default.cfg - SBM-20 has almost the same parameters as STS-5.

 60 # See: https://apollo.open-resource.org/lab:pigi:common-geiger-tube-parameter
 61 tube_id = SBM-20
 62
 63 # GM tube specific cpm to microsievert/h conversion factor
 64 tube_rate_factor = 0.00277

Application starts by default on 8080 port, so logs are available by the web on http:/[IP of the Raspberry Pi]:8080 address. By default it starts in simulation mode, to change it and get real values, it's needed to change in http://[IP of the Raspberry Pi]:8080/webGI/index.html#serverOptionsPanel source to "environment".

That was all, now I'm able to monitor radioactivity just from my browser!

On the picture above, you may see an increased radioactivity level, I've placed smoke detector containing a radioisotope of americium on the GM tube, at the end is visible big decrease, this is because I've taken the smoke detector out, so only environmental radiation was present.

The value drops to 20-25 pulses per minute, that's normal value for environmental radioactivity - it's mentioned in the tube datasheet.