May 16th, 2019 marked the kick off for the NXP RF power amplifier contest, which encouraged ambitious RF enthusiasts to record a video or create an article of their own power amplifier/ demo using NXP’s new 50 V, 100 W MRF101AN or 300 W MRF300AN RF power LDMOS transistor.
With many participants the game around the Homebrew RF Design Challenge 2019 was strong! Numerous creative submissions proved the enthusiasm from the community that has made this contest a big success. We at NXP are proud to see the dedication with which every project has been pursued.
We have spoken to the first and second winner of the Homebrew RF Design Challenge to find out just how exactly they came to participate and what their motivation was to do so. Stay tuned!
Introducing Jim Veatch, first place winner of the challenge who created a MRF101AN broadband HF amplifier design and Razvan Fatu, second place winner who used an MRF300AN RF transistor to build a linear amplifier. Among many other impressive applications, they have made the first and second place in the 2019 Homebrew RF Design Challenge. Check out Jim’s and Razvan’s projects here and click their YouTube links below.
Jim: “I am actually the 4th generation of an engineering family, which is why I was always involved with radio frequency technology since I was 12 years old. Later on I have also worked for a company that did air ground technology.”
Razvan: “Electronics has been a hobby for me since I was very young. I have a background in power engineering however I currently work in the marketing department of a company and not as an engineer. This balance brings a lot of joy for me. My interest in radio frequency started a long time ago and I enjoy bringing modern contribution to amateur radio. I find it very rewarding to share my results and work on something completely different than during my working day.”
Jim: “Last May I went to the HAM radio convention and I came across an NXP promotor, who told me and got me really excited about the NXP Homebrew RF Design Challenge. Before I had already participated in other challenges, and even won some of them with different projects. So of course I had to participate.”
Razvan: “I found out pretty late once I saw Jim’s video posted. It was basically a coincidence and already a month before the competition ended. So I had a lot of pressure to get everything working the way I wanted it to. It was a busy month – usually I allow more time for those kinds of projects. It was actually my first competition in this area and I had a lot of fun participating.”
Jim: ”Well the idea had been around for longer, my first thought was that I’d use a HAM radio, however it is difficult to get the high power amplifier working. New devices make it easier. For this design, I could find all parts from a vendor, but since it is very different from my previous designs, it took me a bit longer to do it all together. First I built a prototype and after I got it to work I had a board made, which took me about a week or two.”
Razvan: “I wanted to design something like this for about a year and played with it in previous project ideas. However when I found out about the contest it became very clear to me that I wanted to pursue and perfect my idea more.”
Jim: “Quite interestingly it was creating the video, because it is actually very hard to portray an RF design in an interesting way. I wanted to present the technology while keeping it short, easy and entertaining in a way. Usually videos about amplifiers that you can find on the internet are longer and boring, if you are not specifically interested in those kinds of things.”
Razvan: “So my circuit is meant to take a small RF signal and amplify it to a high level. I really like that it uses more affordable NXP parts that work over a broad range. This is probably a very unique part about it. I tried to get it to as close to a finalized product as possible, which is not that simple to do. However, what I am happy about is that I am now able to share all parts and choices that I have used and documented with the amateur RF community and someone might be able to benefit from this.”
Jim: “It took me about a month to do it all. That was because I designed after my actual work day. But honestly, I was so passionate about this, that I did not mind. I would say that engineers who have interesting ideas would work even if you didn’t pay them. They love it.”
Razvan: “I also worked on it for a month in total, besides my normal work day. My girlfriend was not too happy about it (laughs).”
Jim: “I want to play around with more ideas for which I will get the MRF300 and a few others. These are more complicated amplifiers. What I love about the NXP ones is that they are of a high quality, however inexpensive compared to competing devices on the market.”
Razvan: “I definitely want to get more interesting parts to experiment with and create more designs in different frequency ranges. With one of the highest power rated transistors I will be able to test more which I am pretty excited about. The parts are usually pretty expensive and I would have not bought them otherwise.”
Any final remarks about the contest or your experiences?
Jim: “I am really happy to have participated in the challenge. Of course, if a new challenge comes up and I have something to contribute, I will work on a new design. I am really impressed with how creative everyone has been in this contest.”
Razvan: “I think every project had something valuable in it for me to learn and use in similar projects. NXP did a very valuable thing for the amateur RF community as now we have many ideas and designs to work with. Not only us winners were successful, but everyone. This competition has enabled me to spend more time on my hobby and helped out on a personal level to learn and develop other circuits. Since the challenge was so well received in the community, I will definitely stay active, learn from others and help out where I can. Grateful for NXP’s support in this.”