Electrical Component Cross Sections

Tube Time @TubeTimeUS March 31, 2019 Take a look at these fascinating and educational cross sections of an LED, resistor, diode, capacitor, and more. (The images in this Moment created by TubeTimeUS are licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)

here’s a cross section of an LED! it still works too. 20 replies 330 retweets 1,317 likes

LED cross section — now with annotations!

here’s a cross section of a resistor!

and here it is with labels on the important bits. you can see part of the spiral gouge left by the trimming equipment. during manufacture, this machine removes carbon film, increasing the resistance until it hits the target value.

compare that with this old-school carbon composition resistor. it’s just carbon powder inside a phenolic tube.

this carbon composition resistor has a value of 7.5 ohms. doesn’t take much carbon to get that resistance!

here’s the cross section of a diode! it’s a 1N4007. you can see the piece of silicon in the middle. the lumps on the wires help hold them in the plastic case.

here’s a cross section of a surface mount ceramic chip capacitor.

here’s the annotated version. i’ve drawn in lines over 4 of the capacitor plates near the bottom to make them a bit more clear.

cross section of a film capacitor.

cross section of a ceramic disc capacitor. you can see the ceramic disc right across the center.

check out this cross section of an inductor!

annotated version of the inductor cross section.

annotated cross section of a film capacitor.

cross section of an electrolytic capacitor! i’ll annotate it shortly.

adjusted the annotations to correct a mistake. the paper in between the layers of foil is not actually the dielectric! when soaked in electrolyte, it serves as the cathode (‘-‘ terminal). the dielectric is an oxide layer grown on the anode (‘+’ terminal).

top view cross section of an electrolytic capacitor.

Here’s a version with each plate colored in to make it easier to trace how they’re wrapped around each other.

here’s the cross section of a dipped tantalum capacitor.

annotated cross section.

cross section of a 15-turn potentiometer

close-up of the slider. this part moves left and right as you turn the adjustment screws.

annotated version of the 15-turn trimmer potentiometer cross section.

have a look at this cross section of a tact switch!

annotated diagram of a tact switch cross section. in the photo, the button is pushed down and the dome is shorting the center contact to the outside contacts. when you let go, the metal dome snaps up, making a tiny click and breaking the circuit.

ok this is the cross section of a 2N3904 NPN transistor. what’s that tiny little speck?

it’s the transistor silicon die! the little gold dollop on top is the emitter bond wire! the big metal slug underneath is the collector terminal.

annotated version of 2N3904 NPN transistor cross section.

here’s a cutaway view of a classic 12AX7 vacuum tube triode. discriminating musicians use these tubes in their guitar amplifiers — you’ve definitely heard the sound before!

this is the annotated cutaway diagram of the 12AX7 vacuum tube.

in the middle of this photo, you can see the coated filament wires entering the hollow cathode. the filament heats up the cathode. this produces an aura of electrons called the “space charge” region.

how about a closeup of the grid wires and the cathode? the white powder is oxides of barium, strontium, and calcium, which improves electron emission. the control grid, if biased negative, repels the electrons, caging them up. otherwise they pass through the grid to the plate.

here’s a cross section of an Ethernet transformer. inside a network adapter, there is one of these in between the Ethernet PHY chip and the cable, providing isolation and safety.

here’s the side view cross section of an Ethernet transformer.

annotated version of the Ethernet transformer cross section.

ok don’t try this one at home: this is a cross section of an LR44 alkaline button cell!

annotated cross section of the LR44 alkaline button cell.

A New Digital Mode For Radio Amateurs

There used to be a time when amateur radio was a fairly static pursuit. There was a lot of fascination to be had with building radios, but what you did with them remained constant year on year. Morse code was sent by hand with a key, voice was on FM or SSB with a few old-timers using AM, and you’d hear the warbling tones of RTTY traffic generated by mechanical teletypes.

By contrast the radio amateur of today lives in a fast-paced world of ever-evolving digital modes, in which much of the excitement comes in pushing the boundaries of what is possible when a radio is connected to a computer. A new contender in one part of the hobby has come our way from [Guillaume, F4HDK], in the form of his NPR, or New Packet Radio mode.

NPR is intended to bring high bandwidth IP networking to radio amateurs in the 70 cm band, and it does this rather cleverly with a modem that contains a single-chip FSK transceiver intended for use in licence-free ISM band applications. There is an Ethernet module and an Mbed microcontroller board on a custom PCB, which when assembled produces a few hundred milliwatts of RF that can be fed to an off-the-shelf DMR power amplifier.

Each network is configured around a master node intended to use an omnidirectional antenna, to which individual nodes connect. Time-division multiplexing is enforced by the master so there should be no collisions, and this coupled with the relatively wide radio bandwidth of the ISM transceiver gives the system a high usable data bandwidth.

Whether or not the mode is taken up and becomes a success depends upon the will of individual radio amateurs. But it does hold the interesting feature of relying upon relatively inexpensive parts, so the barrier to entry is lower than it might be otherwise. If you are wondering where you might have seen [F4HDK] before, we’ve previously brought you his FPGA computer.

Bidirectional IP with New Packet Radio

There are a few options if you want to network computers on amateur radio. There are WiFi hacks of sort, and of course there’s always packet radio. New Packet Radio, a project from [f4hdk] that’s now on hackaday.io, is unlike anything we’ve seen before. It’s a modem that’s ready to go, uses standard 433 ISM band chips, should only cost $80 to build, and it supports bidirectional IP traffic.

The introductory documentation for this project (PDF) lays out the use case, protocol, and hardware for NPR. It’s based on chips designed for the 433MHz ISM band, specifically the SI4463 ISM band radio from Silicon Labs. Off the shelf amplifiers are used, and the rest of the modem consists of an Mbed Nucleo and a Wiznet W5500 Ethernet module. There is one single modem type for masters and clients. The network is designed so that a master serves as a bridge between Hamnet, a high-speed mesh network that can connect to the wider Internet. This master connects to up to seven clients simultaneously. Alternatively, there is a point-to-point configuration that allows two clients to connect to each other at about 200 kbps.

Being a 434 MHz device, this just isn’t going to fly in the US, but the relevant chip will work with the 915 MHz ISM band. This is a great solution to IP over radio, and like a number of popular amateur radio projects, it started with the hardware hackers first.

Es’hail-2: Hams Get Their First Geosynchronous Repeater

In the radio business, getting the high ground is key to covering as much territory from as few installations as possible. Anything that has a high profile, from a big municipal water tank to a roadside billboard to a remote hilltop, will likely be bristling with antennas, and different services compete for the best spots to locate their antennas. Amateur radio clubs will be there too, looking for space to locate their repeaters, which allow hams to use low-power mobile and handheld radios to make contact over a vastly greater range than they could otherwise.

Now some hams have claimed the highest of high ground for their repeater: space. For the first time, an amateur radio repeater has gone to space aboard a geosynchronous satellite, giving hams the ability to link up over a third of the globe. It’s a huge development, and while it takes some effort to use this new space-based radio, it’s a game changer in the amateur radio community.

Friends in High Places

The new satellite, Es’hail-2, was built for Es’hailSat, a Qatari telecommunications concern. As satellites go, it’s a pretty standard machine, built primarily to provide direct digital TV service to the Middle East and Africa. But interestingly, it was designed from the start to carry an amateur radio payload. The request for proposals (RFP) that Es’hailSat sent to potential vendors in early 2014 specifically called for the inclusion of an amateur repeater, to be developed jointly by AMSAT, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation.

The other kind of networking. His Excellency Al-Attiyah (A71AU). Source: Al-Attiyah International Foundation for Energy and Sustainable Development

The repeater aboard Es’hail-2 was developed as a joint effort between the Qatar Amateur Radio Society (QARS), Es’HailSat, and AMSAT-DL, the AMSAT group in Germany. The willingness of Es’HailSat to include an amateur radio payload on a commercial bird might be partially explained by the fact that the QARS chairman is His Excellency Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah (A71AU), former Deputy Prime Minister of Qatar.

The repeater was engineered with two main services in mind. The first is a narrowband transponder intended for phone (voice) contacts, continuous wave (CW) for Morse contacts, and some of the narrow bandwidth digital modes, like PSK-31. The other transponder is for wideband use, intended to test Digital Amateur Television (DATV). The wideband transponder can carry two simultaneous HD signals and a beacon broadcasting video content from QARS. Both transponders uplink on the portion of the 2.4-GHz reserved for hams, while downlinking on the 10.4-GHz band.

Es’hail-2 was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral on November 15, 2018. The satellite was boosted to a geosynchronous orbit in the crowded slot located at 26.5° East longitude, parking it directly above the Democratic Republic of Congo. After tests were completed, a ceremony inaugurating the satellite as “Qatar OSCAR-100”, or QO-100, was held on February 14, 2019, making it the 100th OSCAR satellite launched by amateurs.

Listening In

Sadly for hams in the Americas and most of eastern Asia, QO-100 is out of range. But for hams anywhere from coastal Brazil to Thailand, the satellite is visible 24 hours a day. The equipment to use it can be a bit daunting, if the experience of this amateur radio club in Norway is any indication. They used a 3-meter dish for the 2.4-GHz uplink, along with a string of homebrew hardware and a lot of determination to pull off their one contact so far, and this from a team used to bouncing signals off the Moon.

Receiving signals from QO-100 is considerably easier. A dish in the 60-cm to 1-meter range will suffice, depending on location, with a decent LNB downconverter. Pretty much any SDR will do for a receiver. An alternative to assembling the hardware yourself — and the only way to get in on the fun for the two-thirds of the planet not covered by the satellite — would be to tune into one of the WebSDR ground stations that have been set up. The British Amateur Television Club and AMSAT-UK, located at the Goonhilly Earth Station, have set up an SDR for the narrowband transponder that you can control over the web. I used it to listen in on a number of contacts between hams the other night.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of QO-100. It’s the first ham repeater in geosynchronous orbit, as well as the first DATV transponder in space. It’s quite an achievement, and the skills it will allow hams to develop as they work this bird will inform the design of the next generation of ham satellites. Hats off to everyone who was involved in getting QO-100 flying!

Weeknummering GPS gereset

GPS-tijd gereset

Op 6 april om middernacht wordt het weeknummer van de GPS-tijd gereset. Hierdoor kan apparatuur die gebruik maakt van het GPS-systeem mogelijk niet meer goed functioneren. Controleer daarom of bijvoorbeeld uw navigatiesysteem op 7 april nog goed werkt.

Achtergrond GPS-tijd

De GPS-tijd wordt afgeleid uit twee tellers, de seconden- en de weekteller. De secondenteller houdt het aantal seconden bij sinds de start van de week. Een week begint daarbij om middernacht in de nacht van zaterdag op zondag. Daarnaast is er de weekteller. Deze teller houdt simpelweg bij hoeveel weken er zijn verlopen sinds de start van de telling. Beide tellers zijn gestart om middernacht op 5 januari 1980. Vanwege het simpele feit dat de weekteller wordt bijgehouden in een getal van 10 bits, kan slechts tot 1023 geteld worden. Daarna springt te weekteller weer op 0 (een reset). Dat gebeurt dus op 6 april om middernacht.

De meeste moderne apparatuur heeft geen last van deze reset. Raadpleeg bij twijfel de website van de fabrikant van uw apparatuur. Mogelijk is er een software-update nodig.

This SDR Uses A Tube

When you think of a software defined radio (SDR) setup, maybe you imagine an IC or two, maybe feeding a computer. You probably don’t think of a vacuum tube. [Mirko Pavleski] built a one-tube shortwave SDR using some instructions from [Burkhard Kainka] which are in German, but Google Translate is good enough if you want to duplicate his feat. You can see a video of [Mirko’s] creation, below.

The build was an experiment to see if a tube receiver could be stable enough to receive digital shortwave radio broadcasts. To avoid AC line hum, the radio is battery operated and while the original uses an EL95 tube, [Mirko] used an EF80.

To get the necessary stability, it is important that everything is secured. The original build made sure the tube would not move during operation, although [Mirko’s] tube mounting looks more conventional but still quite secure. Loose coupling of the antenna also contributes to stability, and the tuning adjustments ought to have longer shafts to minimize hand capacitance near the tuning knob. Another builder [Karl Schwab] notes that only about 1/3 of the tuning range is usable, so a reduction gear on the capacitor would also be welcome.

The tube acts as both an oscillator and mixer, so the receiver is a type of direct conversion receiver. The tube’s filament draws about 200 mA, so battery operation is feasible.

According to [Burkhard] his build drifts less than 1 Hz per minute, which isn’t bad. As you can see in the video, it works well enough. The EF80, by the way, is essentially an EF50 with a different base — that tube helped win World War II. If you like to build everything, maybe you could try the same feat with a homemade tube.

PI2NOS stopt in zijn huidige vorm

Zendmast Lopik

De bovenregionale repeater PI2NOS wordt ontmanteld. Dat meldt de Stichting Scoop Hobbyfonds op haar website. Vorige week stopte de ontvanger in Breda. De komende weken volgen een aantal locaties in het noorden van het land.

Drie redenen

De stichting noemt drie redenen waarom PI2NOS in zijn huidige vorm moet stoppen.

De eerste en belangrijkste reden is dat de inkomsten van sponsoren en donateurs teruglopen. Ten tweede heeft de bovenregionale repeater al lange tijd te kampen met frequentiemisbruik. Sommige mensen verstoren het verkeer op de PI2NOS zodanig dat goedwillenden afscheid nemen van de repeater. Ondanks extra inspanningen van het Agentschap Telecom zijn de verstoringen niet gestopt. Tot slot noemt de stichting als reden dat de kosten van de verschillende opstellocaties voor hun systemen oplopen.

Het is jammer dat dit unieke project van gekoppelde radiosystemen in zijn huidige vorm niet kan blijven bestaan.

EF50: the Tube that Changed Everything

From today’s perspective, vacuum tubes are pretty low tech. But for a while they were the pinnacle of high tech, and heavy research followed the promise shown by early vacuum tubes in transmission and computing. Indeed, as time progressed, tubes became very sophisticated and difficult to manufacture. After all, they were as ubiquitous as ICs are today, so it is hardly surprising that they got a lot of R&D.

Prior to 1938, for example, tubes were built as if they were light bulbs. As the demands on them grew more sophisticated, the traditional light bulb design wasn’t sufficient. For one, the wire leads’ parasitic inductance and capacitance would limit the use of the tube in high-frequency applications. Even the time it took electrons to get from one part of the tube to another was a bottleneck.

There were several attempts to speed tubes up, including RCA’s acorn tubes, lighthouse tubes, and Telefunken’s Stahlröhre designs. These generally tried to keep leads short and tubes small. The Philips company started attacking the problem in 1934 because they were anticipating demand for television receivers that would operate at higher frequencies.

Dr. Hans Jonker was the primary developer of the proposed solution and published his design in an internal technical note describing an all-glass tube that was easier to manufacture than other solutions. Now all they needed was an actual application. While they initially thought the killer app would be television, the E50 would end up helping the Allies win the war.


In Britain, there was a single television transmitter at Alexandra Palace — the start of what would become the BBC. This was not only the first public television service but also the first fully electronic television system. Pye Ltd. — a company eventually bought by Philips — made receivers that were surprisingly successful. The sound was at 41.5 Mhz and the visual was at 45 MHz — high frequencies for those days.

Spurred by the demand, Pye decided that a set with more range would create a broader market for receivers. The problem was finding a tube that could handle the 45 MHz frequency in their tuned radio frequency (TRF) design.

Pye wrote out the specifications for what they needed, but couldn’t get them made reliably and cheaply. They turned to Philips who took Jonker’s ideas and added some items needed for this application, producing the EF50 — a pentode. The resulting TV set (see page 199) had a range of about five times the older sets.


Old tubes used a difficult process called pinching to seal the end of a glass tube with the leads running through it. The pinch formed an inverted V shape where the bakelite base of the tube fit the wide part of the V and the wires within entered the tube through the point of the V.

This had several problems. As more wires had to pass through the pinch, they had to get closer together. That increased stray capacitance. Worse, the distance from the bottom of the V to the top of the V meant wires had to be relatively long which added inductance. Finally, the size of the V — often half the total length of the tube — was preventing tubes from getting smaller, hindering the development of portable equipment.

One way to solve this was to build the tubes from metal instead of glass, with some connections going through the top of the tube. However, these tubes were expensive to manufacture in quantity and designers did not like having to wire to the top of the tube. The Stahlröhre bucked the trend, putting the tube components in horizontally to decrease wiring to the base and using no top connections. However, again, the cost to manufacture was high. The 1934 acorn tube was all glass and used two parts sealed together with short leads but were also known to be expensive to produce.

Philips, Pye, and the War

When the Dutch military first asked Philips for tubes around 1918, they declined; Gerard Philips though radio had little practical value. It would be 1923 before Philips decided to use its expertise in light bulbs to produce radio tubes. By 1938, Jonker’s work was circulating and in 1939 there was even an article about it in Wireless Engineer.

By the time Pye came looking for high-frequency tubes, Philips was ready due to the earlier work. The Pye receiver used six tubes and required some tweaking, including the addition of a metal shield.

Meanwhile, there was war. The Battle of Britain was in 1940 and the military was busy in 1939 working on RADAR that also operated at high frequencies. This RADAR — and the command and control strategies used with it — would be key to winning the upcoming battle. The team working on airborne RADAR apparently only had one receiver good enough to get results. Then they received a tip that Pye had an excellent receiver that worked in the same frequency range. This became the basis for Britain’s RADAR sets through the war. About 60% of all Pye TV IF strips wound up in British RADAR sets.

The big problem was that by 1940 the Netherlands was in German hands. The production line needed to be moved to Britain, and when the HMS Windsor took the escaping Dutch government to England, the Philips family was also onboard with the diamond dies needed to produce the fine tungsten wires used in the EF50 tube.

After the war, the EF50 would find a home in many oscilloscopes and radio receivers. This was both because of its superior frequency ability and the availability of war surplus. Others would also produce the tube including Marconi-Osram (as the Z90) and Cossor (63SPT). Mullard produced the tube using the original Phillips equipment and both Rogers and Sylvania also produced a version.


This type of tube would be the king of the hill for RF work until 1959. That’s the year RCA introduced the nuvistor — a metal and ceramic tube assembled in a vacuum chamber. These were nearly as tiny as a transistor, low noise, and had excellent performance at radio frequencies. These were found in a lot of gear all the way until the early 1970s including TV tuners, oscilloscopes, and tape recorders.

More Details

There’s a very long and very well-researched history of everyone and everything related to the EF50 if you want to really dig into the details. There’s even a translation of part of the original internal report about it. You can also find similar information and a lot of unique pictures at [Keith Thrower’s] site.

If you like the sound of an old tube radio, the medium wave receiver in the video below uses some EF50s and it sounds great. Want more tube history? Or perhaps you’d rather make your own. Or you can watch how they made similar tubes back in the day.

Understanding Modulated RF With [W2AEW]

There was a time — not long ago — when radio and even wired communications depended solely upon Morse code with OOK (on off keying). Modulating RF signals led to practical commercial radio stations and even modern cell phones. Although there are many ways to modulate an RF carrier with voice AM or amplitude modulation is the oldest method. A recent video from [W2AEW] shows how this works and also how AM can be made more efficient by stripping the carrier and one sideband using SSB or single sideband modulation. You can see the video, below.

As is typical of a [W2AEW] video, there’s more than just theory. An Icom transmitter provides signals in the 40 meter band to demonstrate the real world case. There’s discussion about how to measure peak envelope power (PEP) and comparison to average power and other measurements, as well.

Although the examples use a ham radio band, the concepts will apply to any radio frequency from DC to light. If you want to do similar measurements, you’d need a scope, a peak-reading watt meter, and a dummy load along with the transmitter.

We enjoyed that he uses a scope probe as a pointer, but we can’t really explain why. If you are ambitious, you can build your own SSB transceiver. Another common way to modulate RF is FM and we’ve talked about it before, too.