BUILD A PROTON PRECESSION MAGNETOMETER

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An educational "backyard" project, constructed using easily obtained electronic parts. A frequency counter is used to measure the post-polarizing pulse proton precession frequency. The measured frequency is related, by a physical constant, to the magnitude of the local geomagnetic field.

Background
For some background information and a description of a practical application for a proton magnetometer, see "The Amateur Scientist "column in the February 1968 issue of Scientific American. Construction of a dual coil magnetometer is described. Information in that article formed a basis for the details shown here. I constructed a fluxgate magnetometer several years ago. It was based upon Richard Noble's article in the September 1991 issue of Electronics World + Wireless World. With a chart recorder, it is possible to see the dirunal changes in the east-west component of the earth's magnetic field, after nulling out the overpowering total and north-south components. After finding the February 1968 Scientific American article, I thought that it would be an interesting project to try adding a frequency counter to the proton magnetometer.It would be an interesting "backyard science" project to use it to provide a measure of the earth's total magnetic field. The addition of a digital to analog converter can provide a output suitable for a chart recorder. However, a suburban backyard environment is a rather noisy one. Harmonics of the power line frequency extend well up into the audio frequency range. These compete with the decaying precession frequency tone. Connecting the sensor coils in differential series, sensor orientation and instantaneous sampling of the audio signal help in contending with the noise. From the physical sciences a quantity called the"Larmor frequency" defines the angular momentum of protons precessing in the presence of a magnetic field. There are currently quantum-mechanical views that explain particle precession, but a classical explanation seems a bit easier to comprehend. A proton, a charged particle, may be thought of as having definite "spin" about an "axis" and acts as a small magnet. An externally applied Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 1 of 14

This axis tends to align with an external magnetic field. Short period variations due to magnetic storms may reach several hundred nanoTesla.magnetic field does not alter the spin rate.58 mHz per Tesla. This figure also agrees with the value obtained using the fluxgate magnetometer that was calibrated using a Helmholtz coil. any alignment tends toward randomness due to thermal effects and other molecular interactions. The proton reacts to the perturbing effects of an externally applied magnetic force by precessing at a rate in accordance with a precise constant called the gyromagnetic ratio. I have noticed a decrease in the frequency readings of about six or seven Hertz over the past twelve months or so since the sensors have been in place in the backyard. This agrees quite well with the USGS readings shown for the Fredericksburg. the total magnetic field strength is in the order of 50.300 nanoTesla. For protons this quantity is equal to approximately 267. Return to main page Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 2 of 14 . Presently. This also seems to agree with the magnitude of the predicted long term variation shown by the USGS site. 160 miles to the west. However in weak magnetic fields. Originally the frequency readings were around 2277 or 2278 Hz. Diurnal variations caused by solar induced ionospheric currents are in the order of tens of nanoTesla. The fluxgate sensor was tipped upward from a horizontal position to nearly vertical to obtain the maximum reading of the earth field.53 x 1E6 radians per second per Tesla or 42. but causes the particle to wobble at a slower rate about an axis of precession. In the northern latitudes of the U.000 to 55. corresponding to a total field of about 53. The proton precession frequency detected by a suitable sensor in the geomagnetic field of the earth will be at a frequency in the audio range: Example: 42. the long term trend of the total field is in the order of minus 90 nanoTesla per year ( steadily decreasing).000 nanoTesla and varies from location to location. VA monitoring station .58 mHz / Tesla x 52500 x 1E-9 Tesla= 2235 Hz In my northeast location the frequency readings currently average about 2271 Hz.S.

The frequency counting circuitry is not used. Only the senor coil(s) .PROTON PRECESSION MAGNETOMETER This is a block diagram of a "listen only" version. A timer IC is used to provide switching contol to a relay that alternately connects the sensing coil between a polarizing current source and the input to the audio amplifier.) Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 3 of 14 .audio amplifier and dc power source are included.(Click figure for larger diagram.

1 Hz. A four decade BCD counter dis.This is a block diagram of a magnetometer design that adds the capability to measure the frequency of the voltage induced in the sensor coil by the precessing protons after the application of a polarizing current several seconds in duration. A frequency multiplier method employs a phase locked loop to provide these resolutions using counter gate intervals much less than one second.plays frequency to a selectable resolution of 1 or 0. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 4 of 14 .

Particularly look for the store brand spices. the coils will be tuned by the addition of a shunt capacitor---perhaps the most important component of all. and possibly most important. The higher coil Q will sustain the ringing effect of induced by the decay signal for a longer period of time. A higher Q will also aid in providing a narrower tuned circuit bandwidth--important in improving the signal to noise ratio and reducing the pickup of high order power line harmonics.Note that the coil inductance increases as function of the square of the number of turns while coil resistance increases as linear function of the number of turns. A somewhat larger container would conveniently allow the use of a larger wire size. providing higher coil Q and possibly higher polarizing current (if the power supply can provide it ). This suggests that the best results (high Q and tuned circuit selectivity) will be obtained using the largest number of turns and largest wire size that is practical. I found that these use thin walled plastic containers that have encircling ridges at the bottom and just below the lid. The coil inductance should high enough to permit the use of a reasonably valued non-polarized capacitor. There are a number of sizes available.SENSOR CONSTRUCTION I found the local super market to be a good source for coils forms on which to wind the magnetometer coils and contain the proton medium. Also found some taller ones that would provide a coil length of about 3. A higher polarizing current increases the initial amplitude of the decay signal. Check the area where the spices are located. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 5 of 14 .Also. There are advantages --lower coil resistance. (CLICK FIGURE FOR DETAILS ) The above referenced page shows the particular size used. These make a form on which a multilayer coil can be easily wound.75 inches.

continue winding to complete the final layer. I found that two identical coils were useful. Distilled water. fill the bottle with a "proton rich" fluid.25 microfarads. An orientation with the coil axes in line and electrically series opposing provided a degree of cancellation of common-mode power line noise pick up. 2. will be about 0. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 6 of 14 . A coil tuning capacitor for two sensor bottles as shown. Coil constructed as shown will provide an inductance of about 10 millihenries. try making a gasket from bicycle inner tube or similar material. Common isopropyl alcohol will work. However. If needed to stop leaking. If you have 700 turns before reaching the end of the bottle. kerosene. Spice bottles are not designed to hold liquids. for the best signal to noise ratio. methanol have been used. After winding. as subsequent layers are added it becomes more difficult to maintain close spacing. Most likely it will take five layers.It may be possible to place the 700 turns in four layers. In my backyard environment. connected in series. These were connected in series and oriented for minimizing the level of power line harmonics. The lids may have a paper inner liner that should be discarded. 4. An approximate formula (neglects a small multilayer correction factor of about negative 5 percent) for calculating the inductance is: L=(r2n2)/(10(r+l)) where: r=one half the bottle diameter in inches n= number of turns l= coil length (inches) 3. 5. Actual turns count is not critical.Notes on Sensor Construction 1.

The block diagram at the left shows the stage gain distribution. Maximum available gain is in excess of 130 dB.AUDIO AMPLIFIER The audio amplifier uses four bipolar transistors and one dual operational amplifier integrated circuit. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 7 of 14 . The operational amplifier provides a two stage active bandpass filter centered at the expected frequency of the proton precession.

With such high gain careful construction is required to prevent oscillation The figure at the left briefly outlines physical details. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 8 of 14 . The circuit board is housed in a Radio Shack molded project case.The theoretical gain vs. frequency is shown in the figure below. Components are soldered to standoff terminals. The amplifier was built on double sided copper clad PCB material. The inside of the case is lined with adhesive backed aluminum tape. A push-in type nylon or teflon terminal is used. Vectorboard is difficult to use for a circuit made up entirely of discrete components.

However.The input stage uses a 100 ohm unbypassed emitter resistor to raise the input impedance to about 12 kilohms to reduce loading on the tuned sensor coils. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 9 of 14 . A number of different devices were randomly selected and tried at the input stage in order to find one providing the best signal to noise ratio. noise from the sensor coils and external pickup exceed the intrinsic amplifier noise contribution. The noise contribution from a 560 ohm resistor soldered across the input terminal can be detected. The tuned circuit formed by the coils and resonating capacitor present a parallel impedance of about 3000 ohms.

For operation from a battery source lower power dissipation equivalent CMOS logic elements can be substituted for the TTL elements shown. It is offered for informational purposes only. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 10 of 14 . but there are other possibilities there also. One of my objectives was economy. Others may find it of interest or may adapt it to a specific practical application.that is. Counter Circuit Description The circuit shown requires twelve integrated circuits in addition to other discrete components. There are many alternate ICs that may be substituted for the NAND gates. to use parts that were on hand or easily obtained standard components. The 4060 counter /oscillator and 4046 Phase Locked Loop IC are probably good choices in any event. substitution of equivalent CMOS logic ICs in place of TTL types will reduce dc current requirements. using parts that were on hand. If power is to be obtained from batteries.The following page links to the schematic of a counter implemenation that measures the precession frequency. Integrated circuit choice was based on economy--. counters and multivibrator. It was intended as a educational project to attempt to provide a measurement of the magnitude of the local geomagnetic field.

) Timing for polarizing the sensors and measuring frequency is derived from a watch crystal. And. These are the tiny cylindrical units found in some digital wrist watches. After removal of the polarizing current the the relay connects the coil(s) to the input of an audio amplifier.768 kHz that is applied to a fourteen stage counter.1 Hz. The final output of the last stage is 2 Hz or a pulse repetition rate of 0. Measuring the VCO frequency directly ( ahead of the divide by ten counter ) allows resolution to 0. For simplicity and economy. In order to obtain an accurate measurement of the frequency. after one second. Three seconds appears to be sufficient. This drives a 4 stage binary counter whose last stage provides a four second high / four second low logic level. the full count cycle of the 4 stage binary counter is used. The oscillator circuit is pretty much per CD4060/MC14060 application note. If the intent is to use the magnetometer in a portable search mode. For simplicity. Certainly.1 Hz. the signal is competing with ac power line harmonics. Measuring the audio amplifier output directly would require a 1 second counting interval to resolve to 1 Hz at the expected relaxation frequency. the signal would have long decayed below amplifier noise or local power line harmonics. it would probably be useful to shorten the four second (listen) non polarizing interval to a half second. In this case. When in lock the VCO frequency is then equal to the audio amplifier output frequency multiplied by a factor equal to the total division ( 8 x 10 =80). ones and tenths Hz. They sell for about two for a dollar at Active Electronics or a dollar each at Radio Shack. Polarizing current should be applied to the sensing coils for several seconds in order to maximize the amplitude of the precession signal. the most significant digit (thousands) overflows the fourth stage of the counter leaving the display of hundreds. a divide by 10 and a divide by 8 in series. A phase locked loop is used to permit measuring the precession frequency to 1 an 0. in a backyard environment. This will require the addition of at least one four input NAND gate to decode the counter state (10 count ) and reset the counter. the counter should begin sampling immediately after the removal of polarizing current. The output of the audio amplifier is a ringing tone at the precession frequency. Measuring the VCO output frequency at the output of the divide by ten counter using a counting interval of one-eighth second allows resolution to 1 HZ. The oscillator portion produces an output frequency of 32. One input to the phase detector is the output of the audio amplifier. The other input to the phase detector is derived from the voltage controlled oscillator (VCO) whose frequency is divided down by two intervening digital dividers. whose amplitude rapidly decreases into the background noise level. individual light emitting diodes are used to display the state of the Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 11 of 14 . tens . in the last case. It eliminates the frequency counter and uses a timer to cycle the polarizing current to the sensor coils on and off.5 seconds.1 Hz resolutions using counting intervals much less than one second. Also counting should only be done when the signal amplitude is well above the noise level.(There is another circuit shown in a separate segment that is a simpler LISTEN ONLY version. and 10 seconds to resolve frequency to 0.

. I suspect that it would be desirable to use a decimal display so that changes in the reading may be easily seen.Q and inverted Q. Under stable conditions. This is probably easier than decoding the states of the CD4060 and 74197 counters (U1 and U2) that derive the time base from the 32. These will require the addition of the appropriate BCD to segment decoder/drivers or the use of the expensive integrated counter/display ICs. For economy. two or three should be sufficient since this stage will normally always read the BCD equivalent of a 2 ( two thousand or two hundred depending upon the resolution selected). ) There are many choices to implement this . there is only a variation in the least significant digit when using one Hertz resolution or the last two significant digits when resolving to one-tenth Hz. monostable multivibrators (one shots) are used to set the decade frequency counter gating and timing intervals. (Although just listening to the audio output may be sufficient to detect magnetic anomalies.768 crystal. The schematic shows four LEDs at the most significant digit.. seven segment LCD.) Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 12 of 14 . etc.-composite LCD display.. minimizing interconnecting wiring and component count ... If the intended use is for portable searching. Straight decoding would require several multiple input NAND gates as well as inverters ( since the counters do not provide complementary logic outputs.decade counter.

The counter display should produce a new reading every eight seconds. The existing accurate time base waveforms and the decade counter are used to set the time delays accurately. R3 and R4. resulting in a frequency of 2048 Hz. U3A Delay Make the following temporary connections: 1. Connect A2 to the 2048 test signal at U1 pin 7. Connect a short insulated wire to B1 such that you can manually touch it to ground to reset the decade counter zero.2 X 16384 or 3277. Open connection between points A1 and A2. Use a nominal value of 56 kohms or 62 kohms as the timing resistor for R3. 3. Time Delay Adjustment The fourth binary stage of the CD4060 oscillator/counter output (Q4) is available at pin 7. The timing resistor values. This places an enabling signal to the decade counter input gate that is equal to the time delay of multivibrator U3A.2 seconds which will be displayed as 0. 2. U3B Delay: Leave previous test connections as they were. Observe counter reading as before and Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 13 of 14 . This connects the divided (by 10) VCO frequency of 16384 to the decade counter input gate. Select a value of resistor to give time delay of 190 to 210 milliseconds or a counter reading between 3112 and 3440. 2. At lock the VCO frequency should be 80 times that of the test signal or 163840 Hz. The oscillator frequency has been divided by a factor of 16 at this point. Open connection between points B1 and B2. This should adjust the free run frequency of the CD4046 VCO to value that will allow it to phase lock to the test signal.The periods of the multivibrators must be set with some degree of accuracy since the tolerance on the nominal values of the timing components is insufficient to guarantee correct time delays. Manually reset the counter by manually grounding B1. Adjust the value of R12 at pin 11 of U10 to some value around 8000 ohms or so. are varied as needed to provide the correct time delays. Open connection between points D1 and D2. Make the following additional temporary test connections: 1. Temporary connection from point E1 to D1. The desired counter display should be equivalent to 0. Open the connection between points TC1 and TC2. Set the resolution switch (S1) to 1 Hz.

equivalent to counter readings between 1475 and 1638. Restore all connections to normal per schematic. VCO Frequency: Temporarily connect point A1/A2 to ground. Remove temporary ground. Use an initial value of 27 kohms for R4. RETURN TO FIRST PAGE GO TO COUNTER CIRCUIT CONSTRUCTION PAGE UNDER CONSTRUCTION ------.reset counter manually as needed. Adjust the value of R4 to provide a delay time between 90 and 100 milliseconds. Adjust value of R12 to produce a counter reading of 2230 to 2250.LATEST REVISION: 23 July 1999 Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 14 of 14 .