Check Inductors With This Simple Q Meter

While LCR meters are readily available at reasonable cost, they do not measure the Q of an inductor. This circuit enables you to measure the Q of inductors with the aid of an RF signal generator. A capacitor is connected in parallel with the inductor to form a tuned circuit. By varying the frequency, you can measure the resonance frequency of the tuned circuit and its -3dB bandwidth. The Q is then the resonance frequency divided by the -3dB bandwidth. Transistor Q1 is an emitter follower acting as input buffer to drive RF transformer T1. The secondary winding of T1 then drives the parallel tuned circuit formed by the inductor under test (Lx), T1’s secondary and tuning capacitor VC.

The tuned circuit so formed is buffered by JFET Q2 and transistor Q3 which form a cascode stage with about 3dB of gain. The JFET provides a high impedance so that the loading of the tuned circuit is minimal (note: an MPF102 can be substituted if you cannot obtain a 2N5485). The RF output from Q2's collector can be monitored by an oscilloscope to easily find the point of resonance and read the frequency. Alternatively, the RF output can be read by an external frequency meter. Diodes D1 & D2 and the 5.6nF capacitors form a voltage doubler rectifier to drive a 100µA DC meter so that the resonance can be found (in the absence of an oscilloscope).

Check inductors with this simple Q meter:

Check inductors with this simple Q meter

Trimpot VR1 provides a sensitivity adjustment for the meter. Transformer T1 is wound on a 12mm diameter ferrite toroid core. The primary winding consists of 50 turns of 0.2mm diameter enamelled copper wire, while the secondary is a single turn consisting of a strip of brass 0.5mm thick and 2.5mm wide bent into a horseshoe shape and threaded through the centre of the toroid. VC is a small AM tuning capacitor with both gangs connected in parallel.

To measure Q, the output of the RF signal generator should be around 0.5V peak. Adjust the frequency until the meter's reading peaks, then adjust VR1 so that the meter reads full scale (100µA). Read the resonance frequency F0 from the frequency scale of the signal generator or better still, the reading on a frequency meter.

Next, increase the signal frequency until the meter reads 70µA and note this frequency as F2. That done, reduce the frequency on the signal generator below the resonance frequency until the meter again reads 70µA and note this frequency as F1. The Q can now be calculated as:

Q = F0/(F2 - F1)

While using a variable tuning capacitor will enable a wider range of inductors to be tested, the main advantage is estimating the distributed capacitance of the inductor as well. To do this, you have to calibrate the tuning scale with a capacitance meter, by measuring the capacitance across the tuning capacitor with no inductor connected. This is done with the unit switched off. Marking off increments of 20pF should be sufficient.

Set the tuning capacitor to say ¼ of its maximum value and note this value as C1. Adjust the RF signal generator frequency so that the inductor under test is at resonance and note this frequency as F0. Now set the RF generator frequency to half F0, adjust the tuning capacitor until resonance and note this capacitance as C2. The distributed capacitance of the inductor is (C2 - 4C1)/3.

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